On View: Inner Lobby of the List Art Center, 64 College Street, from January 23rd to February 16th.
“Shape of Good Fortune” is a student-curated Chinese New Year’s exhibition, created by members of the Brown History of Art “Shape of Good Fortune” seminar. Their exhibition aims to introduce and illuminate the visual culture of the Chinese New Year through the display of typical objects and through their interpretation by means of historically-informed labels. Students participated in every phrase of the process, from objects selection, to research and writing of interpretive materials, to installation design, and mounting. This exhibition focuses on auspicious images – images intended to repel evil and to attract good outcomes, such as health, wealth, and baby boys who will continue the family line and bring honor and glory to it. Because we are entering the Year of the Dragon, the dragon in China receives special attention.
Our New Years prints and paintings, or nianhua 年畫 (New Year’s pictures) include reproductions of historical prints; early 20th-century wood-block prints that were collected by China missionaries; late 20th century prints from Yangliuqimg 楊柳青, the famous New Year’s print workshop, outside of Tianjin; and, contemporary painting and calligraphies created expressly for our Brown exhibition. Protecting the home and family from harm are the legendary Demon Queller, Zhong Kui 鍾馗 and the fierce Door Guardians, or menshen 門神, while celebratory Spring Couplets, or chunlian 春聯 , surround doorways with blessings and luck. At the same time blessing-attracting images of plump baby boys, bumper harvests, and urban prosperity decorate the home and invoke wishes for an auspicious future.
Informative labels prepared by seminar students, bring a new depth of understanding to the familiar, colorful objects that we encounter in Chinese shops and businesses all the time, but especially at New Year’s time: the big-headed God of Longevity, or Shouxian 壽仙, and the big-bellied Budai 布袋 of prosperity, as well as the zodiacal animals that frequently decorate paper placemats in Chinese restaurants.
This exhibition is curated by Lily Chan, Baba Doherty, Anya Eber, Anna Giovannini, Amy S. Huang, Jennifer Ju, Nati Hyojin Kim, Jeremy Korn, Joseph Shapiro, Nick Sinnott-Armstrong, Austin Snyder and Stephanie Teo under the guidance of Professor Maggie Bickford. The exhibition is generously sponsored by the Year of China and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. We would like to extend our special thanks to Professor Chung-I Tan and Shana Weinberg; Professor K. Dian Kriz, Diana J. Adamczyk and Marjorie Lane; Wei Jiang, Professors Cynthia Brokaw and John Cayley; Jo-Ann Conklin, Cameron Shaw and Ian Budish; and Chris Bickford.