Propaganda posters can leave a lasting impact. For Shaomin Li, the Chinese artist, economist, and dissident, they are particularly meaningful.
He grew up during the Cultural Revolution, surrounded by the posters that he now collects. As a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army, Li also had to create them.
Some of his collection was on display in an exhibition at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.
"For my generation, our education was pretty much Mao’s revolutionary class struggle ideology, which was propagated by the posters, says Li, in an email interview. It has left such a strong indelible imprint on us that many of us may still subconsciously follow Mao’s tactic in our lives. For example, many contemporary business leaders in China attributes its business success to Mao’s thought.
Li grew up during the Cultural Revolution, a 10-year period of destruction and upheaval in China. It was launched by Mao Zhedong in 1966 as a way to reassert his rule and galvanize the Communist revolution, with a devastating impact. The death toll is usually estimated at one million, although one study suggested it could be as high as eight million.
It also encouraged the eradication of the "Four Olds" - old "things, ideas, customs, and habits," through which classical literature, art, and architecture were damaged or destroyed.
The widest possible range of emotions is conveyed, from sweet sentimentality to brutal aggression.
The country shown on the posters is of course an imagined China, the China of of the Communists Party's propaganda.
Production of propaganda posters lasted in China for more than half a century. Since the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, tens of thousands of different posters have been produced, printed in billions of copies. Now-a-days however these posters have become very rare.
The People's Fine Arts Publishing House
is a national press specializing in fine arts. It was established in Beijing in September 1951 and published various Chinese excellent works and treatises of fine arts, sorts out and publishes ethnic artistic heritage, as well as publishes and introduces foreign works and relevant treatises of fine arts that are valuable in research and for reference.
Its publications include: various albums and treatises of fine arts and photographs, textbooks of fine arts and books on practical skills, comic strips, New Year paintings, posters, periodicals of fine arts and art series. In the past 40 years, it has published nearly ten thousand titles of books, pictures, and periodicals.
Since 1987, it has been publishing about 400 titles every year, among which new editions account for more than two-thirds. Many of its publications have been highly praised by the artistic circle at home and abroad, and have been welcomed by numerous readers.
Since 1981, the People's Fine Arts Publishing House has carried out publishing cooperation with countries like Japan, France, England, Belgium, the former Soviet Union and Australia.
By 1988, more than 20 titles had been jointly published.
Useful reading :
Tasschen - Chinese propaganda posters.
Landsberger, Van der Heijden, Shen - Chinese Posters.
The largest collection in the west is kept in Amsterdam.