“Popular culture and mass media are confronting Chinese contemporary art with new questions and challenges.”

Born 1976, Kunming, Yunnan

He Jia uses all the tricks—and the clichés—in the mass-marketer’s playbook to create works that comment sharply yet humorously on mass marketing. His huge, brightly coloured paintings are filled with the staples of billboards, TV ads and junk mail: packaged products, cars, tropical resorts and impossibly white teeth. The balloon men of Apple in Love (2005) and Happy Balloon Men (2007) are distant cousins of the singing, dancing characters used to promote M&M candy. They are the perfect consumers, expressing themselves solely with hand gestures and wide grins, yet exuding such zany vigour that they seem about to burst into life. In both painted and sculpted versions, the shiny surfaces and lurid metallic colours exclude dialogue by reflecting the viewer, but they also make ordinary objects seem dull by comparison. In their excesses of smoothness and speed, these cartoonish figures seem appropriate icons for a China hell bent on winning and living the consumer dream.

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