Wordless books brought into focus struggles of Chinese people in 1930s, form backdrop of Plymouth exhibition

September 27th, 2013 by Lynn

    ON VIEW: Frans Masereel's woodcuts are on view at Plymouth State University's Lamson Library this fall.

    More than artistic expression, woodcut works were wordless books that brought into sharp detail social ills of earlier times, including the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people in the 1930s.

    Highlighting that later chapter of the art form, works from the folio “Woodcuts of New China” and Frans Masereel’s folio “China Memories” are on view at Lamson Library on Highland Street at Plymouth State University Monday, Sept. 30, through Friday, Dec. 20.

    David A. Berona, curator and dean of library and academic support services at PSU, said the showing revisits an invitation the Chinese People’s Association for Foreign Cultural Relations extended to Masereel, a Belgian artist and pioneer of the woodcut novel, to China in 1958.

    Woodcut novels focused on the social ills in Europe during the early 20th century. During his visit, Masereel discovered that his woodcut novels, not bound by a language barrier, had been widely distributed across China. Along with the influence of the great writer, Lu Xun, Masereel’s woodcuts reflected and informed sentiment. This Expressionist style evolved into woodcuts of the mid-20th century that displayed more traditional styles and promoted the ideals of the Chinese Communist Party.

    The Chinese woodcuts in this exhibition display examples from this later period and Masereel’s impressions of the Chinese people and countryside following his stay there.

    Berona authored the introduction to the latest edition of Masereel’s “Passionate Journey: A Vision in Woodcuts,” published by Dover Publications. Berona also authored “Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels.”

    “ The themes in these wordless books show a powerful relevance to our world today, the significance of wordless stories, and the growing importance of visual narratives in all cultures — both Western and Eastern,” Berona said of artists such as Masereel, Lynd Ward and Otto Nuckel.

    Beronä will give a gallery lecture at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in conjunction with “Adventures in Chinese Culture,” a lecture series complementing an exhibition of paintings by Chinese brush artist Yang Jukui at the Karl Drerup Art Gallery on campus.

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