Gong Yuebin was born in 1960 in Luoyang, China, at the height of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and its disastrous corollary, the Great Chinese Famine. As members of a demoralized intellectual class, his parents were branded counter-revolutionary and conscripted to a policy of “re-education through labor,” which required them to toil the desolate lands near the rural village where Gong was born. The intensified social, economic, and political atmostphere of the Cultural Revolution, combined with the young artist’s two near-death experiences, as well as starvation, loneliness, humiliation, and desperation, indelibly marked his childhood.
Gong’s earliest memories were colored with a reverence for the natural environment, cycles of destruction and rebirth, and a deep longing for justice, peace, and harmony. When the fervency of the Cultural Revolution subsided, Gong’s family was able to return to Luoyang proper where drawing with a twig in the sand of his youth would give way to a brush and ink on paper. On the strength of his creative voice, Gong was accepted into Luoyang University, where he mastered Western and traditional Chinese techniques, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1982.
Gong went on to teach art at Yanshi City College for seven years. A successful solo show during the pursuit of his MFA at Guangzhou University led to a position as art editor for Guangzhou Radio and Television. In 1994 he founded an award-winning creative advertising agency, providing him with a platform to contribute to significant municipal urban planning and design projects. Gong’s work continued to garner numerous awards and accolades before a third near-death experience prompted him to relocate with his family to the United States.
Living in Sacramento since 2004, Gong’s recent series of large-scale installations are a manifestation of resurfaced memories and cautionary visions; they mark a return to deeply personal themes, which transcend boundaries of place, time and substance. Life’s Crossroad confronts viewers with the towering, charcoaled remains of a Sierra Nevada forest fire. Draped in the weight of iron chains, the dead skin of blackened giants are further scathed with freely flowing red acrylic, sharpened under the contrast of black-light, which Scott A. Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum deemed “haunting and visionary.” Site 2801 unearths a massive, life-sized terra cotta regiment, where ghostly soldiers wield the anachronistic casings of modern-day nuclear projectiles—humanity’s only hope reflected in the precious cargo of newborn infants and our own conscience. Black Hole places the viewer/participant in a shadowy labyrinth of 16-foot high, white gauze curtains and red spotlights, where in the center, an infant floats atop a pool of percolating red liquid. A vortex, which Gong describes as “sucking away our humanity and rationality, and throwing our world into imbalance and disharmony.” Nations is an assemblage of driftwood voyagers, reclaimed from the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Crafted with wire appendages, this fellowship of creatures is hopeful on finding a renewed sense of order and belonging.
Gong’s work has been collected by academic institutions and documented through two publications, including a retrospective of his first 20 years, and a profile of his first large-scale work in America. While his artistry spans nearly three decades, several genres and mediums, Gong’s most recent revelations urgently admonish us to reconsider humanity’s role in the wanton destruction of natural resources, and moreover, the demise of our own species. By re-imagining found, organic materials as visual anchors on bold, three-dimensional canvasses, he tackles profoundly complex ideas through a visual language that is immediately arresting and universally relevant!
Gong Studio July 8, 2011
See the beauty of mother earth disappearing.
Hear the voice of freedom fading.
Witness the spirit of mind suffering.
How much more nature resource has to be exhausted?
How many more people have to be sacrificed?
How many more souls have to be destroyed?
We are one with all on this planet.
It is easy to express well wishes. It is hard to defeat evil and crime. If I could, I must use my life to scream, for waking up the rest of us and for the countless lives already perished. I believe this is the reason that I keep my memories alive and use art to realize my childhood dream. Desiring for life was my childhood dream; exclaiming for life is my art pursuing.