Wesleyan University

John Crespi: Laughing at Utopia: The Rise and Fall of Cartoon Art in 1950's China


Smiling peasants, parading tractors, model workers, cowering imperialists . . . such utopian made-to-order propaganda images dominate the imagination of socialist-era China's graphic art. The 1950s magazine Cartoon (Manhua, 1951-1960) complicates this picture. Carrying on China's modern tradition of pictorial infotainment, Cartoon during its mid-1950s heyday published hundreds of satirical works poking fun at the ironies, bungling, and injustices happening all over China's actually existing socialism. This lecture explores the artistic inheritance behind Cartoon as well as the ambiguities of its fate in the anti-rightist crackdown of 1957.

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