In the West, artistic innovation is deemed exhausted. The avant-garde has been proclaimed dead, originality seems impossible. The Modernist surge toward transcendent progress has been replaced by a critically imposed Post-Modernism that transforms everything into myth.
But what of other cultures, where jaded self-analysis and philosophical navel staring are considered decadent bourgeois indulgences? What of the People's Republic of China, for example, where under Mao's severe Cultural Revolution even the mildest of Modernist ideals were severely repressed in favor of the official dogma, Socialist Realism?
Today, following the more pragmatic leadership of Deng Xiaoping, Western cynicism is almost unknown, the concept of simulating history a contradiction. If you have no notion of a dead end, you don't need to recycle the past.
Or do you? Judging from "Beyond the Open Door," the Pacific Asia Museum's survey of 50 contemporary paintings from post-Maoist China, aesthetic liberalization is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it opens the flood gates to Western influence, breaking down the stultifying hermeticism of ideologically correct "style." On the other, it replaces a viable national identity with a faceless internationalism. Every Modernist movement from Cubism to Photo-Realism is appropriated and analyzed. Modigliani, Matisse and Picasso become a form of creative elixir, embraced and exploited with as much passion as in their first appearance in the West 80 years ago.