Some artists appear to deliberately use the traditional medium in a confrontational manner by depicting modern imagery. An example of this is seen to the left: Han Jar Overpainted with Coca-Cola Logo (1995), by Ai Weiwei (b. 1957), perhaps one of China's best-known contemporary artists. Displayed in a gallery even before the exhibition space, Ai has branded an ancient Western Han jar with the ubiquitous Coca-Cola logo, alluding to the complex nature of modern China as it moves on its path towards globalization.
Xu's Book from the Sky (ca. 1987-1991) fills up the last room of the exhibition. As an installation of hand-printed books and scrolls that cover the ceiling and the walls, the printed material contains invented Chinese characters that cannot be interpreted even by a Chinese-character-reader. The characters were created by Xu and then hand carved into wooden printing blocks to create the printed material. The mass of black marks on the page cannot be decoded, posing questions about the linkage between language and culture.
Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until April 6, 2014.