Yishu 73 opens with a text on the innovative handmade puppets developed by Shanghai artist Maleonn. Puppetry is an area of creative practice that has received scant attention from the art world, and Maleonn’s incorporation of various found objects into the construction of his theatrical presentations demonstrates the kind of resourcefulness and imagination that is characteristic of the bricoleur. This aesthetic and approach to art making is also found in our first feature on Hong Kong legend Frog King, an industrious artist who is equally theatrical through his interactive happenings and his tendency to integrate found objects into his collages and assemblages.
Completely opposite to the bountiful aesthetic of Maleonn and Frog King is the painting and sculpture of Korean artist Lee Ufan, a pioneer in the Mono-ha art movement which emerged in Japan in the 1970s, and whose work represents another kind of richness, one that is minimalist and exhibits influences derived from Korean, Japanese, and Chinese artistic traditions and literature.
The ghost of socialist realism appears in the exhibition Really, Socialism?!, as well as in the conceptual underpinnings of work by Liu Ding and Jin Shan, all of which are explored in this issue. Often dismissed as an archaic artistic practice, socialist realism here comes under renewed scrutiny in each of these three texts—not as an effort to revive it, but to bring forward new considerations in understanding its legacy within the present moment.
In conclusion, Yishu 73 presents artists and histories that have sometimes been overlooked, like Maleonn’s puppetry, both within the canon of art history and in the definition of what constitutes fine art. Maryn Varbanov was a significant figure in the evolution of contemporary Chinese art during the 1980s and contributed greatly not only to the practice of textile art, or “soft sculpture,” but to challenging longstanding traditions in painting and sculpture that led to the advent of installation art in China. This issue concludes with a conversation with Siu King-Chung about his Community Museum Project, which brings together visual art, design, and politics to create collective endeavours—often involving those who might be considered non-artists—that reflect upon social protest, local initiatives, and urban redevelopment as they have emerged in Hong Kong’s recent history.
Image (top): Jin Shan, installation view of Divine Ruse, 2015, plastic, steel. Photo: Alessandro Wang. Courtesy of the artist and BANK, Shanghai.