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Friday, Sept. 28, 2012

A Chinese Life (Abrams), by Li Kunwu and Philippe Otie

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Chinese dissident artists get all the press in the West, and Li Kunwu is not among their ranks. Now a Communist Party arts administrator, he grew up during the hateful Cultural Revolution of the 1960s (his family members were among the millions of victims) and brings an unusual insider’s view to his autobiography in the form of a graphic novel. With brush strokes often suggesting Chinese calligraphy, he moves easily between styles, usually emphatic black ink on white backgrounds. The artist expresses some dismay at many developments, but his bottom line, after witnessing warfare, famine and massive state-sponsored violence, is a “profound desire for order and stability.” Armchair activists in the West may snicker, but most of them have had easy lives compared to Li Kunwu.