PLYMOUTH — Lamson Library at Plymouth State University will present an exhibition of Chinese woodcuts from the folio Woodcuts of New China and Frans Masereel's folio, China Memories through December 20 at the Library on Highland Street in Plymouth. David A. Beronä, dean of library and academic support services at Plymouth State, curated the exhibition.
Beronä explains that the Chinese People's Association for Foreign Cultural Relations invited Masereel, a Belgian artist and pioneer of the woodcut novel, to China in 1958. Woodcut novels were wordless books of woodcuts that focused on the social ills in Europe during the early twentieth 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 served as an inspiration to the Chinese avant-garde movement in the 1930s and mirrored the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people. 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 in color reproductions and drawings of the Chinese people and countryside following his visit.
A recognized scholar on woodcut novels and wordless books, Beronä has written extensively on the genre, and authored the introduction to the latest edition of Masereel's Passionate Journey: A Vision in Woodcuts, published by Dover Publications.
Beronä has also written his own book, Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels, which was a First Place winner at the 2009 New York Book Show and was nominated for a Harvey Award. In the book he examines the history of wordless books and the art and influence of pioneers like Masereel, Lynd Ward and Otto Nuckel among others.
He says, " 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."
Beronä will give a gallery lecture on this topic at 5:30 p.m. October 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. His talk will have particular focus on Western artists including Masereel, Käthe Kollwitz and Carl Meffert and their impact on Chinese avant-garde artists and the Modern Woodcut Movement.