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 Yun-Fei Ji  (1963 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / China      Known for: symbolic landscape, allegory and history painting

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AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
S.R., 1998
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Yun-Fei Ji's ink-and-brush with mineral pigments on rice or mulberry paper scenes are "part history painting, part symbolic landscape, part documentary (and at times autobiographical) sketchbook"(Knafo).

The artist was born in Beijing in 1963, to a People's Liberation Army doctor and his wife, and grew up in the city of Hangzhou, on a military base where his father ran a clinic.  At the age of 10, he was sent by his mother to study with an officer who drew illustrations for PLA combat-training manuals.  In the late 1970s, Ji was one of the youngest students attending the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts.  As political power changed in China, he witnessed his teachers paint and repaint scenes containing top government officials.  With art schools only recently reopened at the end of the Cultural Revolution, restrictions were placed upon the Academy.  His instructors were still making history with propaganda paintings in the classic Socialist Realist style, and knowledge of experimental Western developments were censored.

However, before attending the Central Academy, he had a teacher, Chung Jun Quai, an army officer, whom he later credited as a major influence because he taught him how to draw, especially military portraits.

Feeling unfulfilled under these restrictions, Ji took a trip to the ancient Silk Road area of northwestern China where he viewed the celebrated Buddhist frescoes (ca. 400-1400 A.D.) in the Mogao cave temples near Dunhuang.  He went on to create a number of works inspired by the experience.

In 1986, Ji left China on a scholarship to the Fulbright College of Art and Science at the University of Arkansas, from which he graduated three years later with an MFA. He has lived in New York since 1990.

His exhibition history includes solo shows at Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp and the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, as well as participation in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and group surveys at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art; the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut; and New York's Drawing Center and P.S. 122.  A selection of new works was on view November 14, 2003 at Pierogi in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and a traveling one-person show opened January 16, 2004 at the St. Louis Art Museum.

"He often displays a particular interest in machines, fabrics, musical instruments and other domestic items that evoke ordinary living conditions during the mid-century turmoil of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Rustic ceremonies and rituals, the well-worn routines of daily life, bicycles and tractors, popular prints that depict anthropomorphic animals from didactic folk tales and myths are all, for Ji, touchstones of cultural authenticity". (Knafo)

He explains, "In my work, I try to mimic the method that underlies the formation of early Chinese characters: I invent forms that are like words to describe the world."

In 2006, Ji became a Prix de Rome recipient, and established a studio in that city at the American Academy.

Source:
Robert Knafo, "Yun-Fe Ji: Moral Vistas", Art in America, June 2003
Dorothy Spears, "Artists Under the Influence", Art & Antiques, August 2006


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