Huang Yong Ping, the son of a tea planter, grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, a time when much of that country’s artistic and intellectual history was destroyed or replaced by its government. He was a member of the Xiamen Dadaists, a group of artists who often used processes of destruction to make art. Their work also combined ideas from the East and the West. In 1987 Huang accepted an artist residency in France, where he still lives today.
The title of this sculpture tells exactly how it was made: the artist put two art history books into a washing machine. Once used to teach about the history of art in China, Europe, and America, these books were destroyed by this process—the pictures and words have faded and the pages are mixed together. Huang then heaped the paper pulp onto a piece of glass balanced on a Chinese tea box commonly used to keep tea leaves fresh when transported from place to place. With this sculpture, the artist invites us to think about the importance of learning world history and to recognize ways that today’s artists combine ideas from many cultures.
“We didn’t know anything about Western art. We didn’t know anything about traditional Chinese art traditions either. We looked to both of them as a way to liberate ourselves and our thinking.” —Huang Yong Ping