Seeing Red

Eddie C.Y. Lam / Image Art Studio

Strive Forward in Wind and Tides
Tang Xiaohe, 1971

In cultural terms, Chinese revolutionary zeal is often remembered more for what it destroyed — temples, monuments, reputations, lives — than for what it created. But "Art and China's Revolution," an exhibition at the Asia Society in New York City until Jan. 11, presents a fascinating look at an artistic development that came into being between the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949 and its economic liberalization in 1978 — namely, the new visual aesthetic of socialist realism with Chinese characteristics.

As Mao Zedong saw it, art was to...

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