, a single figure dominates the center of the approximately 5 ft x 2 ft (162 cm x 80 cm) canvas, spanning the narrow rectangular canvas top to bottom. The figure’s left half is a rendition of Mickey Mouse, the ubiquitous symbol of Western (as embodied in “American”) mass marketing and media culture: big ears, big white glove, bold red trousers, and a perpetual smile of optimism built into his expression.
The right side of the figure depicts a stolid-faced soldier in a Mao style quilted jacket and combat boots. His fist is clenched, ready to fight. Unlike the blaring color and flat planes used for the “Micky” side, the soldier is executed in the modulated blacks, browns and grays of traditional Chinese ink painting. The color is applied in the nuanced, sometimes liquidy washes typifying such painting and their use acknowledges the artist’s skill in such historical techniques even in his twenties.
However, Micky-Soldat is rendered not in paint but in another traditional medium, lacquer. In this split figure, the soldier’s monochromatic form, juxtaposed against the vivid colors of “Micky,” causes him to recede, suggesting a clash between the past and the present, the traditional and the modern worlds. This split figure stands on a white tile, grid-like flooring. Tellingly, in place of one tile in the lower left hand corner – the “Micky” side – the artist has substituted a large price code bar of the kind that appears on consumer packaging. The code’s white rectangular form intensifies the already strident whites on “Micky’s” side and has the effect of strengthening the dominating presence of this personification of Western success. Yet both of the symbols, Western and Eastern, each in its own way, represents a force that engenders conformity. Although this painting precedes The Children’s Project by almost seven years, its attempt to sort out and reconcile split worldviews, dual aesthetic traditions, and recognition of the complexities of creating an identity in the modern world, continues to inform the artist’s more mature work.
Excerpt from "To Arrive Where We Started and Know the Place for the First Time" by Randy Rosen