UC Riverside Art History Professor to Give Lectures in China

Jason Weems heading to Hangzhou and Beijing

Grant Wood, Fall Plowing, oil on canvas, 1931.

Grant Wood, Fall Plowing, oil on canvas, 1931.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Jason Weems, associate professor in the art history department at the University of California, Riverside will be speaking at the Complementary Modernisms in China and the United States: Art as Life/Art as Idea conference at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China on Thursday, March 24 to Saturday, March 26. His lecture is titled, “Picturing the Good Earth: Modernism’s Rural Roots in China and the United States.” Following the conference, Weems will be traveling to Beijing where he has been invited to give three lectures at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, on Wednesday, March 30 and Thursday, March 31.

“This is a unique chance to contribute to an expanding dialogue between China and the United States,” said Weems. “Traditionally, Chinese and American art histories have been seen as distant and distinct concerns. A new sensitivity to the global interdependency has helped scholars to appreciate the entanglements, both historical and contemporary, which shape art in both places. It is wonderful as a scholar, and as a representative of UCR, to be at this cutting edge.”

The Complementary Modernisms in China and the United States: Art as Life/Art as Idea conference focuses on what can be learned when the art histories of the United States and China are juxtaposed, and how they develop modern or post-modern art that is useful to their own national identities.

Cover for the first edition of "The Good Earth," by Pearl Buck. John Day Publishing, 1931.

Cover for the first edition of “The Good Earth,” by Pearl Buck. John Day Publishing, 1931.

Weems’ lecture will examine the artistic return to the rural subject matter in China and the United States during the 1930s. He uses Pearl Buck’s novel, about peasant life in China, “The Good Earth,” and Grant Wood’s painting of the rural Iowa countryside, “Fall Plowing” to explain how new modes of visualizing the world worked with older practices of representation to fashion new, hybrid identities for the average person engaged in everyday life.

“Though it could be nostalgic and sentimental, ruralist art was often subtle in content and composition, broaching the tensions between old and new that people were negotiating in their daily lives,” Weems explained. “Such imagery opened a conceptual space where modernization could be reconfigured through active dialogue with the past, rather than a clean break from it.”

The following week, Weems will head to Beijing to the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. There, Weems will discuss “Aerial Visions: Grant Wood, the Rural Landscape, and Modern American Art,” a lecture based on his book, “Barnstorming the Prairies: How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest.” His following lectures will focus on the history of twentieth century American modern art, titled “The Armory Show: Abstract Art and America,” and “Jackson Pollock and the Mythologies of Modernism.”

 

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Jason Weems
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