Van de Weghe is pleased to present Chinese Student, 1989 in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. Sparked in April, 1989 by the death of former Communist Party Secretary turned liberal reformer and activist, Hu Yaobang, university students gathered in Tiananmen Square in a show of mourning which developed into a protest against government corruption, censorship, inflation, and lack of career prospects. A student-lead hunger strike galvanized public support; at its height there were almost a million people assembled in Tiananmen Square and the demonstration spread to 400 cities across China by mid-May. Ultimately, the nation’s leader, Deng Xiaoping, and the Chinese government declared martial law and sent as many as 250,000 troops to Beijing to disperse the protestors. This culminated in a violent clash on June 4, resulting in scores killed and thousands wounded. This reaction by the Chinese government generated international shock and outrage.
Beginning in the late 1960s with such sculptures as War, Gangland Victim, and Bowery Derelicts, Duane Hanson tackled timely social subjects in a brutally realist manner, elevating social and political issues to an iconic level. In 1970, Hanson evolved both in terms of his style and subject matter to create more subtle investigations of character: that of the everyday people he encountered. Among the first artists to work in a hyper-realist style, Hanson is often associated with Pop Art and at other times with Photorealism.
Cast from life, dressed in second-hand clothing, and accessorized with found objects, Hanson’s sculptures were a radical return to figuration in the wake of recent abstraction. As was the case with all of his models, Hanson called on relatives and friends to pose for him for the grueling process of being cast piece-by-piece, body part by body part. The model for Chinese Student was Hanson’s own studio assistant, Tin Ly, who worked with him for many years, and was a close friend of the Hanson family.
In Chinese Student, Hanson melds the personal and political. An ordinary student, turned political activist, sits on the ground holding a protest sign, wearing a bandana emblazoned with a slogan for his cause. He is not the ardent, screaming protestor we have seen on the news, but is captured in a moment of weary reflection and is utterly human. Hanson allows us the unusual privilege of staring, prompting us to confront the hard truth of the struggle of others.
Van de Weghe represents the Estate of Duane Hanson. The gallery is open from Monday – Friday from 10:00am – 6:00 pm, and by appointment. For further information, please contact Jenn Viola at firstname.lastname@example.org.