A painter and printmaker, Fang is part of the Cynical Realist generation of Chinese artists. He grew up during the devastation and oppression of the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 76) and then experienced life in its aftermath, but he became disillusioned when the push for democracy ended with violence in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Fang often uses subtle humor and sarcasm to hint at the absurdities and uncertainties of life in contemporary China. His compositions are typically based on the figures of anonymous, shaven-headed men, composed in ways that create ambiguous social and emotional readings. For example, in 2003.2.1 is the crowd looking up and exclaiming with awe or grimacing in fear?
Following a 1995 trip to Norway, Fang adopted Edvard Munch's technique of cutting his woodblocks into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle, inking them separately in different colors, and then reassembling them for printing. The scale of Fang's work, however, is virtually unprecedented in printmaking. Made up of seven contiguous thirteen-foot vertical scrolls, 2003.2.1 is a woodcut mural. This combination of the traditional Chinese scroll format with the bold figuration of Communist propaganda posters and a deliberate rawness inspired by modern Western woodcuts embodies an extraordinary moment of transition in Chinese art and culture.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 213.