Art, Documentary, and Propaganda in Wartime China: The Photography of Sha Fei

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - 11:00am to Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 6:00pm
Urban Arts Space


Reception

Friday | February 26 | 5 to 7pm

Legendary Chinese photographer Sha Fei (1912-1950) produced one of the most fascinating photographic records of war. The Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 reshaped China and the lives of all its citizenry. Sha Fei's lens captured these dramatic changes, in particular as they occurred in North China behind Japanese lines. His photographs depict the northern Communist army, known as the Eighth Route Army during the war years, as it resisted the Japanese. Moreover, they portray the socialist revolution as it progressed in China's countryside. Combining photography's potential for art, documentary, and propaganda, Sha Fei created a large body of photographs in his brief life of thirty-eight years. While most of the original prints have been lost, their negatives have survived.

Dedicated to Sha Fei's life and work, this exhibition is the first to be organized in the United States. It features a highly selective group of photographs, reprinted from the digital scans of Sha Fei's original prints and negatives provided by Sha Fei's family members. The exhibit chronologically traces the photographer's development, conceptually divided into three periods: (1) Sha Fei the fine art photographer; (2) Sha Fei the social documentarian; and (3) Sha Fei the propagandist. His professional evolution underscores the intertwining relationship between art and politics that was at the heart of modern Chinese art in the twentieth century.

About the Curator

Eliza Ho was born and raised in Hong Kong. Eliza received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Hong Kong. In 2000, she came to The Ohio State University for her graduate work in the field of Art History, specializing in modern Chinese art. Her Master's thesis explores the relationship between art and patronage in the founding of the Lingnan School of Painting, particularly in the art of its founder Gao Jianfu (1879-1950). In 2008, Eliza was awarded a Presidential Fellowship by OSU to complete her dissertation on Sha Fei. She is one of the contributors to the Encyclopedia of Modern China (Charles Scribner's Sons/Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009) for which she wrote the entries on the Lingnan School of Painting and histories of Chinese documentary and propaganda photography. In conjunction with the exhibition Art, Documentary, and Propaganda in Wartime China: The Photography of Sha Fei, Eliza produced a catalogue in which she examines the institutional forces that shaped Sha Fei's photography as well as the photographer's mastery of his craft.

Video on the Sha Fei exhibit by Anita Kwan.

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