Shaomin Li, a painter by trade, received an assignment in 1976 that represented a turning point in his life. Having been drafted into the army, he was asked to paint a black and white portrait for Mao Zedong’s funeral.
Shaomin Li later attended school in the United States, became an advocate of democracy and free markets in China, and was imprisoned for six months in 2001 for speaking out against dictatorship in Hong Kong. The Old Dominion University professor offers glimpses of political and social realities over time in The Art of Revolution: Chinese Propaganda Posters from the Collection of Shaomin Li, on view March 2–June 24, 2018 in the Chrysler’s Community Gallery.
The exhibition includes more than 20 posters grouped by classic themes such as the Cult of Mao, Glorifying the Military, The Eight Model Plays, Everyday Heroes, Propaganda as Educational Material, and China after Mao. The Girl with the Red Lantern, for example, was among the most iconic and universally-recognized images in Mao’s China. Also included in the exhibition are Shaomin Li’s sketches related to his imprisonment as well as sketchbooks of military life and the model books he was ordered to use.
As artist, economist, dissident, and local professor, Shaomin Li offers a unique view of propaganda in his collecting, one that we are privileged to share in this exhibition. Admission is free.