Yue Min-Jun initially started painting as a hobby, subsequently he graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Hebei Normal University, China in 1985. In the 90s he joined an artist community in Yuan Ming Yuan, a village near Beijing where he began to form his style and iconography. The paintings, sculptures, and installations of Yue Minjun feature uniform laughing pink faces, which appear to be self-portraits. Through various symbols, metaphors, signs, or through depictions of daily life the artist constructs various realities against which the laughing figures are rendered.
"In my work, laughter is a representation of a state of helplessness, lack of strength and participation, with the absence of our rights that society has imposed on us." —Yue Minjun
Yue became famous after his participation in the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, which granted him access to international art. One of the best-known paintings by Yue Minjun and an icon for modern Chinese art and the Cynical Realism movement is Execution. It was painted in 1995 and is generally regarded as a reaction to the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, as it shows several laughing men in front of an execution squad. The cloned all smiling Minjun self-portraits have become known in the art world as the "Silly Man". As the preparation for his paintings, the artist uses photographs of himself being photographed in various poses. This approach reflects the self-irony of the artist. Yue Minjun is often classified as part of the Chinese "Cynical Realist" movement, however, the artist does not support such attribution. Nevertheless, Yue often challenges social and cultural conventions by depicting objects and political issues in a radical, abstract, ironic and cynical manner.