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Zhang Xiaogang

The Records

About Zhang Xiaogang

Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China) is recognized for his figurative paintings and sculptures that navigate the cultural terrain of contemporary China and question notions of identity and the construction of memory. When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Zhang’s parents were forced to give up their government posts, leave Zhang and his three brothers behind, and go to a “study camp” in the countryside. Following the collapse of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Zhang was accepted into the prestigious Sichuan Institute of Fine Arts in Chongqing in 1977.

In 1995 Zhang Xiaogang presented his Bloodline: Big Family series in an exhibition entitled The Other Face: Three Chinese Artists as part of the larger international exhibition Identità e Alterità, installed in the Italian Pavilion during the centenary 46th Venice Biennale. Drawn from formal family portraits, the paintings represent both the individual and the faceless masses of China at once. The figures, often dressed in identical Mao suits, have distinctive red blood lines which demonstrate the links between people.

Since 1989, Zhang has been the subject of over two hundred group exhibitions, including Asia–Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Australia (1997); Guangzhou Triennial, China (2002, 2005); Huang Zhuan Memorial Invitational Exhibition, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen (2017); Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); and Practice and Exchange, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2018).

Press Release

  • Zhang Xiaogang: The Records
    On September 26th, Pace Beijing will present Zhang Xiaogang’s exhibition The Records. The exhibition will run from September 26th – November 15th, 2009. The title is derived from the well-known Han Dynasty text Records of the Great Historian and will continue Zhang’s exploration of memory and history. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Zhang Xiaogang is one of China’s leading artists. His artistic development parallels that of contemporary art in China. The Records includes a continuation of his Green Wall series paintings along with a group of new sculptures. He uses seemingly subtle objects to continue his sensitive depiction of memory: from the beginning bloodlines, light spots, trail of tears to the later faraway skylines, the overhead electrical wires that appeared to travel freely across the canvas planes, down to the objects which people would usually turn a blind eye to, such as lamp cord and electrical cables. Zhang makes connections between abstract history and concrete living through the use of these details. With history in mind, he is constantly reminding us that every individual grows up amidst this abstract yet concrete history. In his new paintings, Zhang works on stainless steel plates. Yet, the change of medium did not alter his themes. In some works, sketches are screen printed onto the stainless steel plates, then Zhang modifies and reworks the printed work directly on the surface. When viewing the polished, mirror-like steel plates, viewers are able to see their own images reflected in the paintings enabling them to further experience the paintings as they are made part of them. He also continues process of incorporating his journal-like “recordings” into paintings. The process of writing down his thoughts and feelings during these works creation started in 2004 in his Description series. Chinese literati painters were known to insert poems or writings on the side of their finished paintings as a way of recording and expressing their moods during the creation process or as a response to the pictorial image. The content of a painting accompanies the poem or writing and together they form a complete work of art. Zhang is undoubtedly attempting to resume this tradition to contextualize the imagery and make the text visible. The exhibition also includes bronze and cement sculptures. They depict an ink bottle, fountain pen, book and radio amongst others which all seem to be exposed to pressure as their figures appear distorted. This alteration of form is not due to an external force; it is from time, which revises memory. In the works in this exhibition, the artist records through the use of painting and text, making his personal experiences historical and memorable. But the artist is not merely interested history and memory per se, but also in the trace of his personal experience. This trace allows the artist to continue seeing himself, examining himself, intensively asking himself questions, as well as developing and changing himself.



Leng Lin and Zhang Xiaogang

2009. Pace Beijing. Paperback

117 pages: 100 illustrations; 12 x 9 ½ inches