Zhang Xiaogang was born in 1958 in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southern China. 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.
New York—Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by renowned contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang. Gathering together eleven oil paintings on paper, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s continued use of narrative scenes and portraits, through a lens of constructed memory and imagination, in exploration of the nature of painting, autobiography and emotional sensibility. On view at 537 West 24th Street from September 7 through October 20, 2018, the exhibition is the artist’s sixth show with Pace Gallery worldwide.
The paintings in the exhibition build on Zhang Xiaogang’s long-held interest in portraiture and narrative imagery with domestic scenes as his primary subject matter. However, in these recent works, a new compositional dynamic has emerged through the figures. In the artist’s earlier figurative portraits, such as the iconic Bloodline – A Big Family series, the subjects are presented in group formations, positioned in the foreground of the canvas. In these new portraits, a powerful weightlessness or instability emerges. The figures drift upon the canvas, balance on precarious wooden stools, and even float within a bathtub of water—projecting a sense of isolation and alienation from their environments.
With this new series, the artist has introduced collaged compositions into his practice, tearing and layering the paper material into textured works that emphasize the fragmentary nature of memory. The collage technique merges with the act of painting, with the two presenting corresponding executions of both physical and cerebral creation. Both the technical and figurative composition of the works reflect the artist’s broad interrogation of the nature of painting as a physical manifestation of the unconscious and as interpretive of individual and collective memory.
On the occasion of the exhibition, Pace will publish a full-color catalogue featuring installation images of the show, as well as an essay by Chinese independent curator Cui Cancan.
Join Barbara Pollack for a book signing, discussion, and walkthrough of Zhang Xiaogang: Recent Works, on the occasion of her forthcoming book, Brand New Art from China: A Generation on the Rise. Tuesday, September 25 6–8 PM 537 West 24th Street New York Seating will be limited. To RSVP, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-750-0840.