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Faces of China

This exhibition runs Wednesday, September 11, 2013 through Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Index of Links to Exhibition Materials

Link to Youtube Interview Link to Exhibition Introductory Material Link to Zetterstrom Interview Quotes
Link to Video of Interview with Tom Zetterstrom Link to Exhibition Introductory Material Link to Tom Zetterstrom Interview Quotations

Faces of China

Faces of China, 1981: Photographs by Tom Zetterstrom

September 11, 2013 - December 6, 2013
12:00 - 4:00 Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays

Opening and Gallery Talk

Wednesday, September 11, 12 noon
Curator Patrick Dowdey and Photographer Tom Zetterstrom
A luncheon buffet will be served 

Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies
Wesleyan University
343 Washington TerraceMiddletown, CT 06457

Contact: Ann Gertz, (860) 685-2330

Tom Zetterstrom’s photographs are a glimpse of China’s people in only the third halting year of Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening Up: before globalization or discos, before even cell phones. They were taken during his 1981 trip hosted by the Yale-China Association, were exhibited at the Asia Society and toured nationally in the eighties, but have not been displayed for 30 years. The people in these color and black and white portraits are guileless, everyday people who stand on the brink of enormous social change.

In her 1981 catalogue essay, Mary Price of the Center for Independent Study in New Haven wrote:

"When Tom Zetterstrom went to China on the invitation of the Yale-China Association,
he brought an intense concentration and isolating vision into the cities, crowds and confusion. He did not respond with pictures of the confusion or of the crowds, but with patiently collected details of telling moments, without political comment or alien judgment, or even more tempting possibilities of uncritical approval and sentimentality.

"Zetterstrom presents the monuments of the state—heroic social realist sculpture and the more ephemeral billboards, posters, and television screens—as important aspects of Chinese society’s visual instruction, which interplays in the exhibition with portraits of the Chinese at their daily tasks.

"Among those shown at work are the tinman, the bricklayer, and the peasant woman; firemen on their truck, an egg vendor in the street market, a laughing woman with bus tickets, a Shanghai taxi driver, an artist with his drawings made from photographs, with the photographs stuck in the frames of the drawings.

"One encounters humor throughout the exhibition. The success in conveying the quality of quiet good humor with a feeling of intimacy is attributable to the photographer, who quotes Robert Capa: “if your photographs aren’t good, you’re not close enough.”