Shape of Good Fortune: Chinese New Year's Exhibition

Exhibit reception for "The Shape of Good Fortune: Welcoming the Year of the Dragon"

February 3, 2012

5:30-7:30 PM      

List Art Center, 64 College Street, Inner Lobby

“Shape of Good Fortune” was a student-curated Chinese New Year’s exhibition, created by members of the Brown History of Art “Shape of Good Fortune” seminar.  Their exhibition aimed to introduce and illuminate the visual culture of the Chinese New Year through the display of typical objects and through their interpretation by means of historically-informed labels. Students participated in every phase of the process, from objects selection, to research and writing of interpretive materials, to installation design, and mounting. This exhibition focused on auspicious images – images intended to repel evil and to attract good outcomes, such as health, wealth, and baby boys who will continue the family line and bring honor and glory to it.  Because February 2012 marked the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, the dragon received special attention.

Our New Year's prints and paintings, or nianhua  年畫 (New Year’s pictures) include reproductions of historical prints; early 20th-century wood-block prints that were collected by China missionaries; late 20th century prints from Yangliuqimg 楊柳青,  the famous New Year’s print workshop, outside of Tianjin; and contemporary painting and calligraphies created expressly for our Brown exhibition.  Protecting the home and family from harm are the legendary Demon Queller, Zhong Kui 鍾馗, and the fierce Door Guardians, or menshen  門神, while celebratory Spring Couplets, or chunlian 春聯, surround doorways with blessings and luck.  At the same time blessing-attracting images of plump baby boys, bumper harvests and urban prosperity decorate the home and invoke wishes for an auspicious future.

Informative labels prepared by seminar students brought a new depth of understanding to the familiar, colorful objects encountered in Chinese shops and businesses throughout the year, but especially during New Year’s festivities:  the big-headed God of Longevity, or Shouxian 壽仙, the big-bellied Budai 布袋 of prosperity, and the zodiacal animals that frequently decorate paper placemats in Chinese restaurants.
“Shape of Good Fortune” was open to viewing in the Inner Lobby of the List Art Center, 64 College Street, from January 23rd to February 16th.

The Brown Lion Dance team performed at the exhibit receptionThe Brown Lion Dance team performed at the exhibit reception
This exhibition was made possible by support from Brown’s Year of China and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture.

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