Ten years after introducing the work of Lu Shengzhong to American collectors in the exhibition First Encounter, Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 11 of Lu Shengzhong: A Decade. In 1988, the exhibition Paper-Cut Art by Lu Shengzhong at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing announced what was to become a life-long and in-depth exploration of the folk art tradition of the paper-cut, henceforth to become the inspiration for his work in both two and three dimensions.
Born in Shandong Province in 1952, Lu Shengzhong’s first exposure to paper-cutting occurred as a child when he watched his mother fashion flowers from scraps of paper. Not sharing the growing enthusiasm for everything western among his contemporaries during the 1980s, he focused instead on an in-depth investigation of the history and practice of the paper-cut, gradually coming to the realization that this technique could be utilized in large scale works and installations. As used traditionally, the paper-cut was used largely for decorative and symbolic purposes. For Lu Shengzhong, however, the technique itself had a meaning above and beyond its use in the creation of pleasing decorations. As his knife or scissors cut into the paper, he is constantly aware of the relationship between positive and negative forms. Nothing is wasted, the scraps that other artists would probably discard being used to complete the rhythm of his creations.
A constant presence in his works is the Little Red Man, with feet touching the earth and hands supporting the sky. As Lu Shengzhong said ten years ago: “Similar forms can be found in early civilizations from many parts of the world. As the earliest self-portrait and the earliest evidence of self-awareness, the shape illustrates the congruities among early civilizations.”
In the current exhibition two series of works illustrate the consistency of Lu Shengzhong’s concerns. In Human Walls, 2005, thirty-two Plexiglas bricks house thick stacks of red paper, bound together with thread, from which the human forms have been cut out, sheet by sheet. Adjacent to the bricks, many thousands of the liberated figures are superimposed on each other, the formless clouds of Little Red Men contrasting with the geometrical rigidity of the bricks. Opposite stand three steel sculptures utilizing the same imagery, the positive and negative forms echoing each other in an ongoing dialog.
While many of the earlier paper-cuts are characterized by the formality of the manner in which the constituent parts are arranged, others reveal a much greater spontaneity. Using small pieces of paper, Lu Shengzhong begins cutting without any preconceived ideas. When there is no more paper to cut, the scissors are laid aside and the long strip of paper falls into place as it reveals a fantastic dreamscape in which figurative and abstract elements exist in harmony. A group of new works representative of the lyrical side of Lu Shengzhong’s personality was specially commissioned to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the gallery.