Longhua Xu’s The Soul of Arkansas Art Exhibit
Start Date: October 5, 2018, End Date: February 1, 2019
“The Soul of Arkansas,” an exhibit of 40 paintings by internationally acclaimed artist Longhua Xu, will open in October in the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The center’s huge permanent collection of original artworks already is regionally recognized as one the most extensive collections of public art in the South. The new exhibit will open to the public October 5, 2018 through February 1, 2019
“The north concourse of the convention center is being converted into an art gallery for the Longhua Xu exhibit, hopefully the first of many temporary exhibits in the space,” said Mary Zunick, cultural affairs manager for Visit Hot Springs, which operates the Convention Center and Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
Zunick said the exhibit’s 40 paintings are “of people, of all ages, races and shapes — everything from children trick or treating, to musicians performing, to a grandma, a farmer, truly a representation of the people of Arkansas.”
“Our permanent collection of original artworks is already a highlight for the attendees of the hundreds of meetings we host every year in the Center,” Zunick said. “We constantly receive compliments from our guests on how much the paintings, sculptures and other works in the permanent collection contribute to their enjoyment of the facility.”
Xu is a 30-year resident of Hot Springs, having settled there after emigrating from China following the country’s Great Cultural Revolution. His massive 1992 sculpture of “Mother Nature” has been a focus of the city’s historic downtown district since 1992. He was chosen from a pool of many artists vying for the job. For this work of art, President William Jefferson Clinton, who grew up in Hot Springs, wrote him a letter that said: “The sculpture is a beautiful addition to the Bathhouse Row and should bring enjoyment to millions of visitors for years to come.”
“Longhua is an exceptional artist, but this exhibit is more than just his art,” Zunick said. “He has added so much to the arts and culture of his adopted hometown, more than just visual art, and it’s fitting that he be honored by Hot Springs with this exhibit, not in a museum or gallery, but in a public space to share ‘The Soul of Arkansas’ with the people.
“In a world where the connection and relations between China and America are not always harmonious, this exhibit is a celebration of both cultures. Longhua’s incredible talent and the training he received in China have absolutely left a permanent mark and the artistic landscape of Hot Springs as he lived and worked here for the past 30 years. This exhibit is the embodiment of the connection to his adopted hometown.”
Xu’s interest in art began as a child in China when his older brother Binghue would take him to the park to paint landscapes. As his talents blossomed, the Chinese National Arts and Crafts Company — created after the reopening of trade relations between the United States and China — selected him, as part of an elite group, to learn more traditional Chinese art at Luo Qing in 1971. This art facility, which encompassed all of Shanghai province, was dedicated to furthering the art education of gifted students from all over China to create a new generation of professional artists following the end of the Cultural Revolution. Xu graduated from East China University of Technology with a degree in Fine Arts and went on to teach art at Shanghai University of Technology until 1989.
He began displaying his art nationally in 1972, with several exhibitions all over the country, including the Shanghai Art Museum. He also erected several monumental sculptures in Shanghai. Many of his works were published in nationally distributed magazines in China and presented as national gifts to foreign dignitaries. One of his sculptures was selected to be in the Complete Works of World Master Sculpture (The End of the 19th Century to Present.)
In 1989, he was invited to immigrate to the United States with the title of “Outstanding Artist” under the “Extraordinary Ability” program. He felt that in America there would be more access to artists from all over the world.
Since then, he has created countless pieces of public art for parks, schools and hospitals, as well as numerous pieces for private collectors.
Several of his works have gone on to be designated national treasures and cataloged in the Smithsonian Institution Catalogue of Great Public Works. Although sculpture is his passion, he loves all art media. He has always said that, “In order to fully express one’s ideas, thoughts and emotions, one must be proficient in all techniques of art. Since art is not separated by country or race, then it should also not be separated by technique or medium. This way, the expression of those ideas and visions are limitless.”
This philosophy is in many ways similar to that of his hero, the artist Michelangelo, who was also proficient in many techniques and media. Xu continues to explore new avenues of expression with stone carving, relief sculpture, bronze, pottery, oil, acrylic, and even architecture.
For more information contact Mary Zunick at 501-321-2027.