May 28th, Stanley Abe

Title: Imagining Sculpture
Abstract: In his forthcoming book, Imagining Sculpture, Stanley Abe sketches in narrative form a comparative history of sculpture in the West and China from the fourteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. The comparison is between a fundamental category of fine art in the West and the absence of its equivalent in China. There are few references in Chinese historical texts to renowned sculptors or masterpieces of sculpture. Compared to the lofty arts of the brush—painting and calligraphy—sculpture was considered unrefined and unworthy of praise. There was no great tradition of sculpture in China: no Classical origins, no Renaissance, no neo-classicism, no modern abstraction. The word “sculpture” was not translated into Chinese until the beginning of the twentieth century. Sculpture did not exist in China until modern times.
Of course statues, carvings and figural objects were produced in China for millennia. They were understood as icons, representations, decorations and effigies, and from the nineteenth century some were valued and collected as antiquities. But if figural objects from China are not sculpture, what are they? Is there another way to understand their value? Perhaps not as sculpture but as historical documents? And how might this question help us see the category of sculpture in a different light? These will be the topics of our discussion. A reading is recommended: Stanley Abe, “Sculpture: A Comparative History,” in Comparativism in Art History, ed. Jaś Elsner (London; New York: Routledge, 2017), 94–108).

Ta Ge Chung, Peking purchase

Prof. Pan Li, May 24th

Title: Tsuguharu Fujita’s “Marvelous creamy white”


Abstract: Japanese artist Tsuguharu Fujita (藤田嗣治, 1886—1968) is a member of the “Paris School” in the early 20th century. He created a kind of oil painting that properly blended water with oil. Fujita demonstrated that both oily and water-based paints can be applied on the same painting by drawing thin lines with ink on an ivory-like creamy white background. In Fujita’s technique, the canvas was mostly covered in creamy white, which was called “marvelous creamy white” by art critics in Paris. His unique oriental painting style drew tremendous admiration from Paris. Fujita was the first Asian artist to succeed in Europe, showing to Europeans the charm of “Japanese style oil painting”. Unlike other Japanese students who simply brought the oil painting techniques they learned in Europe back to Japan, Fujita instead immersed himself in the art revolution in Europe with his own inventions. Through the Fujita phenomenon, we can see the relationship between early 20th century Japanese, Chinese, and European art, and the European attitude towards accepting foreign influence.

Tsuguharu Fujita, “Nude Lady in the Bedroom”,

oil painting on canvas, 130cm ×195cm  1922

Municipal Museum of Modern Art in Paris Collection

[Special Joint Event with RAVE] Nancy P. Lin, May 8th

Dear all,
Wednesday, May 8th at 4:30 pm in CWAC 156.
Nancy P. Lin, a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History, will present her paper “Going Outdoors: Keepers of the Waters and Experiments in Site-Based Art Practice in the 1990s.” Dr. Mechtild Widrich, assistant professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will offer a response. There is no pre-circulated paper.
Yin Xiuzhen, Washing River, 1995, performance documentation, Chengdu. Source: Asia Art Archive.

Zhiyan Yang,May 17th

Title: “The Work Didn’t Exist Before its Publication” – Architectural Journals During the Transitional Period (1979 – 200X)

Abstract: This paper explores the history of Chinese architectural journals since 1980 as a key form of cultural production through which foreign information was channeled and local responses spawned in the architectural world. As the country saw a rapid unfolding of political liberalization and economic reform, it was uncertain how the same energy would pan out in the field of architecture and be directed towards envisioning and catalyzing a nationwide modernization. Focusing mainly on World Architecture 世界建筑and Time+Architecture 时代建筑 from 1980 to early 2000s, I argue that the development of a new, post-socialist architecture cannot be fully understood without an investigation of its relationship with the printed media first. In numerous cases, ideas were first tested out and sharpened in these journals years before they were materialized in the building form. The emergence of these new journals not only accelerated the search for architecture’s autonomy in the post-socialist China by allowing new conversations to grow without the previously prevalent Mao-ist ideology and rhetoric, but also provided a “contact zone” for Chinese intellectuals and architects to encounter, debate, digest, and at times misappropriate the changing cultural landscape shaped by the increasingly globalizing architectural community beyond China. By foregrounding issues around translation, criticism, self-censorship, and the changing operation and strategies of the media itself and reflecting on topics such as early reception of I.M.Pei, a debate between modernism and postmodern architecture, and a reconsideration of the relationship between architecture and art, I hope this paper can shed new light on the conflicting value systems and diversity of cultural responses that were at play in the transitional era.

Cover of World Architecture, 1981, vol.2, no.2. Featuring the interior of I.M.Pei’s East Building, National Gallery of Art (1978) with Alexander Calder’s Untitled (1976)

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Dongshan Zhang at

Best wishes,


Yan Jin, April 12th

Title: “Reflective Surface and Reflection: The Qianlong Emperor’s Mirror Table Screen”
Abstract: This paper takes one pair of table screens as a point of departure, in order to examine the many glass mirror table screens that became an essential element of the interior program of Qing imperial spaces and beyond and was especially favored by the Qianlong emperor (reigned 1736-95). Instead of using the more traditional materials such as inkstones, jade ornaments, or slabs of rock for central panels, painted glass mirrors were employed, thereby giving the screens the ability to incorporate the viewer’s image into the visual presentation. Scholars have briefly mentioned these screens as examples of “occidenterie” that demonstrate the emperor’s taste for the West. Their discussions tend to focus on how Chinese art of the early modern period integrated foreign concepts or to what extent were these concepts and techniques incorporated into the production of Qing court art; yet, the questions of how these objects were able to engage their owner / user, both physically and conceptually, is seldom explored. Following this line of inquiry, I hope to shed light on how the materiality of the screens, made possible by the cultural exchanges between China and Europe, offered the Qianlong emperor an alternative mode of seeing and contemplating the self.

Schedule for Spring 2019

Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia is proud to present our schedule for Spring 2019


Sessions of this quarter will take place on Fridays 4:30-6:30pm (unless otherwise noted) in a variety of locations at the Cochrane-Woods Art Center(CWAC).


April 12, Yan Jin, MAPH Student

Humanities Division, University of Chicago.

“Reflective Surface and Reflection: The Qianlong Emperor’s Mirror Table Screen.”

*In CWAC 153


May 8, Nancy P. Lin, PhD candidate

Department of Art History, University of Chicago.

“Going Outdoors: Keepers of the Waters and Experiments in Site-Based Art Practice in the 1990s.”

(Joint-event with RAVE, in CWAC 156, Wednesday, 4:30pm – 6:00pm)


May 17, Zhiyan Yang, Ph. D Candidate

Department of Art History, University of Chicago.

“’The Work Didn’t Exist Before Its Publication’ – Architectural Journals During the Transitional Period (1979 – 200x).”

*In CWAC 152


May 22, [Special Session]Zhang Jianyu, Professor

Renmin University, China.

*In CWAC 152


*The talk will be delivered in Chinese


May 24, Pan Li, Professor

Visiting Scholar, Department of Art History, University of Chicago.

“Tsuguharu Fujita’s ‘Marvelous creamy white.'”


*In CWAC 152


Ma​y​ ​28​, ​Stanley Abe​, ​Associate Professor of Art and Art History​

Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke ​University.

“Imagining Sculpture.”

*In CWAC 153

*Tuesday, 4:30pm-6pm


We look forward to your attendance and hope you will share this with all who might also be interested in joining our community. Please direct questions and inquiries to Dongshan Zhang at



[Special Joint Event with APEA] Friday, 3/1 at 3pm: So Hye Kim

Dear all,
Please also find our following special joint event with APEA, early in the afternoon, this Friday.
So Hye Kim 
(PhD Candidate, EALC)
“Beyond the Divided Korea: Zhang Lu’s Dooman River (2009)”
Friday, March 1st, 3 – 5PM
Location: Wieboldt 301N (EALC Seminar Room)
*Please note the time and location
So Hye offers the following description: 
Zhang Lu (1962-), is one of the most emblematic diaspora filmmakers in South Korea today. In the five feature films which he released between his debut in 2004 and 2008, Zhang portrays ethnic Koreans across China, Korea and Mongolia who are pushed by inexorable forces to the peripheries of, and boundaries between nation-states. In 2009 Zhang returned to his hometown near the North Korean-Chinese border to film Dooman River, a work that depicts encounters between two distinct diasporic groups: ethnic Koreans in China, who form a cultural and linguistic enclave with certain autonomy from mainstream Chinese society, and North Korean refugees, who cross the border to survive the rampant hunger of their isolated homeland. This talk argues that Dooman River uncovers new forms of transnational practices of cinematic imagination and spectatorial experience which reach beyond the divided Korea. To be specific, this talk analyzes the ways in which the film’s text embodies border-crossing both in its narrative and cinematic form and invites spectators to experience the border-crossing by viewing the film.

March 1st, Jeehey Kim

Visual and Material Perspective On East Asia is proud to present Jeehey Kim, Postdoctoral Instructor, Department of Art History, University of Chicago, this Friday, March 1st . Please notice the unusual time of the event: 5pm at CWAC 156.

Here are out speaker’s title and abstract:

 “Commemorating the Dead through Photography in East Asia.”

 “One can find ancestral portrait paintings of East Asia in museums, exhibitions, and even antique shows on television. Then, where are funerary portrait photographs to be found? They are at home, funerals, annual memorial services, as well as in national memorial halls, courts and protests on street. My project started with a question of “when and how was the commemorative use of portrait painting transformed into photographic medium in East Asia?” This paper draws upon my dissertation titled “Death and Photography in East Asia: Funerary Use of Portrait Photography,” which compares the practice of funerary photo-portraiture in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam by examining the basic concepts underpinning it. I argue that funerary portrait photographs signal the absent presence of the deceased, testifying to the existence of invisible ancestral spirits. The first part of this paper explores how the commemorative use of one’s likeness gave birth to funerary portrait photography, while the rest addresses the ways in which funerary portrait photography structures national identity and collective memory in East Asia.”

(The event is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago)

If you need assistance, please contact Dongshan Zhang:

Thank you.

Best wishes,


February 8th, Yueling Ji.

Visual and Material Perspective On East Asia is proud to present Yueling Ji, Ph. D student from Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, this Friday, February 8th. The time and venue is as usual: 4:30pm at CWAC 156.

Title: “Queering the Sino-Soviet Alliance Posters”


During the 1950s and under the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, artists from China and the USSR made a number of Sino-Soviet alliance posters. The posters typically portray the physical intimacy between a white Soviet man and a Chinese man. They hold hands, embrace each other, and care for the boys of the two countries. These posters resurfaced in internet communities of the early 2010s, as activists and fan artists from Philadelphia to Shanghai picked up on the visual language of mixed-race same-sex intimacy and kinship. The images were repurposed as a sort of communist homoerotic art, and widely circulated online as gay rights activism.

My project aims to track the two lives of Sino-Soviet alliance posters. Following the end of the Second World War, Sino-Soviet alliance posters ambitiously campaigned for masculinity, patriarchal lineage, and family building under socialism. But the unexpected role of Sino-Soviet alliance in gay rights activism today suspends the heterosexuality of historical socialist states, producing a fictional coalition between Cold War communism and Western liberalist sexual politics. It is with such a retroactively projected heritage that I hope to investigate socialist and neoliberal conceptions of family, sex, and race, and reevaluate the homonormativity of sexual politics today.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Dongshan Zhang at

(This program is sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies)