Sunday, 7 December 2008

Luo Brothers

The Luo Brothers (Luo Weidong, 1963, Luo Weiguo, 1964 and Luo Weibing, 1972) were born in Nanning, in the southern province of Guangxi. They graduated respectively at the Guangxi Academy of Art, the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art and the Central Academy of Applied Arts, and since 1986 they have been living in Beijing, where they all work together.

With such revolutionary and patriotic names, the three Luo brothers could never have become nude or flower painters. Luo "defender of the Orient" (Weidong), Luo "defender of the country" (Weiguo) and Luo "bodyguard" (Weibing) all have names characteristic of a distinctive period which preceded and followed the Cultural Revolution, during which political fervour still filled the hearts of many parents. However, by the time that the children had grown up, things had changed in China. Now on the anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China on the 1st October, there are more bright red Coca Cola advertisements in the streets than red national flags.

Following on the trail initiated by political pop, which was a trend from the beginning of the nineties coined by Li Xianting, the exponents of which combined communist iconography with symbolism of contemporary consumer society, the Luo brothers have emphasized the reference to popular culture exploiting rainbow colours, auspicious symbols and eye-catching elements to the full - in brief, kitsch - as seen in the streets, shops and houses of common people in China.

Their repertoire is extremely varied and expressed through compositions in which a brightly-coloured horror vacui replaces the traditional alternation of empty space and form of the classical Chinese style. The most famous foreign brands (with the omnipresent Coca Cola, Pepsi and Oreo…) take the place, in the collective imagination, of slogans of political propaganda. Materialistic mentality supercedes the fervour for ideals resulting in a triumph of colours and techniques, techniques taken from Chinese tradition: the lacquers of 1999 are followed by the ink-on-paper works of 2001.

In the paintings of the Luo brothers one only sees smiley faces and plump children, and the golden rays of the orient sun crown the brands of biscuits or soft drinks. Could this be the expression of their unrestrained gluttony or of their mockery of the superficial triumphant vision of China's "modernization"? (The Red Mansion Foundation)

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