| Biography | Artist Statement I Inventory Catalogue | Artists Represented | Zhang Wanxin


Biography

1961 
Born in ChangChun City, China


Inventory Catalogue

Education

1992-1996

Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, USA

1980-1985

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, Luxun Institute of Fine Art, ShengYang, Liaoning Province, China

1978-1980

Diploma of Fine Art, Art School of Jilin, Changchun, Jilin Province, China


Teaching

1996-present

Instructor, Academy of Art University San Francisco , USA

1985-1992

Assistant Professor, Jilin Art College , ChangChun, China

Solo Exhibitions

2012
Panda Warriors, Ceramic Figure Sculptures by Zhang Wanxin, Art Beatus Gallery, Hong Kong
2010 “A Ten Year Survey: 1999-2009”, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona
Travelling to:
Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho
The Art Center, St. Petersburg, Florida
Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washingston (2011)

“Wanxin’s New Works”, Udinotti Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona

“Wanxin Zhang 2010”, Mindy Solomon Gallery, St. Petersburg, Florida
2009
“Wanxin Zhang New Sculptures”, University of San Francisco, Thacher Gallery

“Sculpture Terrace”, University of San Francisco, Kalmanovitz Hall

”Atrium”, University of San Francisco, Kalmanovitz Hall

“Contemporary Warriors”, Sonoma State University, University Art Gallery, Rohnert Park, California

“Wanxin Zhang: Ceramic Sculptures”, Udinotti Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona
2008
"Pit #5, Shifting Dreams", Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California USA

"Report from Pit #5", Art Beatus Gallery, Hong Kong, China

"Pit #5, Michigan", The Alden B.Dow Museum of Science & Art, Midland Art Center, Midland, Michigan, USA
2007
"Pit #5, California Artist Too", Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, California, USA
2006
"Wanxin Zhang's New Works", Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, Florida, USA

“Pit #5 Laramie , 2006”, University of Wyoming Art Museum Laramie, Wyoming
2004
“Figures of the Future‘s Past - Pit #5”, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery Miami, Florida, USA

2002

“Ceramic Sculpture”, Triangle Gallery San Francisco, USA
2001
“Treasures of China-A-Dialogue”, Vorpal Gallery San Francisco, USA
1997
“Wanxin Zhang 1997”, Space 303 San Francisco, USA

"Breaking Out", Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco, USA
1996
Dialogue” MFA Graduate Show, Academy of Art University Sculpture Center, San Francisco, USA


Selected Group Exhibitions

2010
“Glimpses: Contemporary Ceramics”, Pacini Lubel Gallery, Seattle, Washington

“Nine Lives: Dog Day of the Summer”, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, Florida
2008 “Wyoming Invitational”, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming

“Spirit and Form”, Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, California


"A Human Impulse: Figuration from the Diane and Sandy Besser Collection", Arizona State University Art Museum, USA

"Artists to Watch - Asia", Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

"Taiwan Ceramics Biennale", Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
2007
"In Your Face", Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA

"Clay and Brush: The Ceramic Art of China", Lowe Museum of Art, Coral Gables, Florida, USA

"What is Next?", Florida Craftsman Gallery, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

"The 22nd UBE Biennale International Sculpture Competition", Yamaguchi, Japan
2006
“45th Anniversary” Triangle Gallery, San Francisco, USA

“Landscape Sculpture Design for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games”, Beijing, China
2005
“Little Basil” Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA

“Riverbend Sculpture Biennial 2005”, Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts Owensboro , Kentucky, USA

 “The Other Mainstream”, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona, USA

"Palm Beach 3", Represented by Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA

"The 7th San Francisco International Art Expo", Byron Cohen Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
2004
"It's for the Birds" Traveling Exhibition, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA

"Art Basel Miami Beach" International Art Fair, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA
2003
“Across the Divide”, Gatov and Werby Art Gallery Cal State Long Beach, CA, USA

"Art Basel Miami Beach" International Art Fair, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, USA

"Fourth Toronto International Art Fair", Art Beatus Gallery, Vancouver, Canada

"14th Annual California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art", Davis, CA, USA

"International Art Expo, Chicago", Art Beatus Gallery, Vancouver, Canada

"Gallery Artists", John Elder Gallery, New York, New York, USA
2001
“Selected Artists”,Triangle Gallery San Francisco, USA
2000
"2000 All California Exhibition", San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA

"Sculpture 2000", Catholic University of America, Washington, USA
1999
"Lunar New Year Celebration", Hayward Art Council, Hayward City Hall, CA, USA
1998
"The Light is Diverse in California", Center for Visual Art, Oakland, USA

"The Fifth Annual San Francisco International Art Festival", Vorpal Gallery, San Francisco, USA
1997
"Contemporary Sculpture",  Vorpal Gallery,  San Francisco, USA

"California Clay Competition Exhibition", The Artery Gallery, Davis, CA, USA
1996
"The 21st Annual Open Show", Roseville Art Center, Roseville, CA, USA

"Spring Show", Academy Of Art University, San Francisco, CA, USA

"June Juries Show", Gallery Router One, Point Reyes Station, CA, USA
1995
"Gallery Artist", Triangle Gallery, San Francisco, USA

"The 10th International Art Exchange", Asian Art Society in America, San Francisco, USA
1990
"Asian 11th Champion Art Exhibition", International Exhibition Center, Beijing, China
1989
"The 7th National Fine Art Exhibition", National Fine Art Gallery, Beijing, China
1987
"The 60th Anniversary Army Art Show", National Fine Art Gallery, Beijing, China


Awards

2006
Virginia A. Groot Foundation Sculptors Grant – 1 st Place Evanston , Illinois, USA

NEA / Warhol Foundation, Artist-in-Residence Award, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
2004
The Joan Mitchell Foundation Inc. Painters & Sculptors Grant, New York, USA
2000
Distinctive Merit Award, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA
1997
Honorary Merit Award of the Outdoor Sculpture Search, Los Altos City, USA
1989
Sculpture Bronze Prize, The 7th National Art Exhibition, National Art Gallery Beijing, China

Selective Collections

Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California, USA

City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

City of Dalian, Dalian, China

Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, California, USA

Lowe Museum of Art, Coral Gables, Florida, USA

National Fine Art Gallery, Beijing, China

Sandy Besser Collection, Sante Fe, New Mexico, USA

University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, Wyoming, USA

Virginia A. Groot Foundation, Evanston, Illinois, USA

Private collectors in US and Switzerland

Review
Tyranny Meets Irreverence in Pit #5

Wanxin Zhang’s sculptures are born of the collision of disparate social movements and their attendant aesthetic innovations, brought together by the happenstance of the artist’s life and personal inclinations.  Colliding elements include the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and its ubiquitous propaganda, the harsh dictatorship of Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BCE) which produced the famous life-sized terracotta army, and the 1960s and 1970s American counter-culture movement, one of whose products was Funk Art.  Such an unlikely combination of influences coalesced in Zhang’s oeuvre not long after his 1992 move from his native China to San Francisco.  The result was a highly individualistic body of works that employ sly humor to undercut imperatives to conformity, whether dictated by historical megalomaniacs, or by modern culture.

As a student in the Department of Sculpture at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, Wanxin Zhang followed a rigorous five-year course of study that focused on figural realism, emphasizing the use of clay.  Following graduation, Zhang favored working with metal, but he returned to clay upon arriving in San Francisco and being exposed to the works of such clay artists as Peter Voulkos (1924-2002) and Robert Arneson (1930-1992).  The former founded the California clay movement with his large-scale, rough, obviously hand-shaped works, and is credited with giving clay, “previously regarded as restricted to the realm of craft, a working vocabulary for use in freestanding sculpture.”   Arneson, a leading light of the Bay Area Funk Art movement, imparted a funky twist to clay, producing works that were humorously anti-establishment—not only in terms of their overt subject matter, but also in their irreverent stance against the art establishment which favored “serious” modes such as abstract expressionism.  The result was that “when Funk merged with Arneson’s brand of narrative it catapulted the sculptor outside the framework of the other clay practitioners.”  The Bay Area Funk clay movement inspired Zhang to return to clay and experiment with expressing his personal experiences of historical forces in brash, large-scale works infused with humor.

As his career has matured, Wanxin Zhang has developed an ongoing major series of works that fall under the umbrella title of Pit #5.  The signature image from this series is that of a standing figure modeled after the terracotta warriors that were discovered buried in pits adjacent to the burial mound of Qin Shi Huang, near Xi’an.  Four pits had been constructed to house the emperor’s army: Zhang’s Pit #5 follows on from there.  While free-standing clay sculpture may have been a novelty in terms of later twentieth-century art, the discovery of Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army showed that it had flourished two thousand years ago in China.  The tomb sculptures were discovered in 1974; Zhang visited the site in 1983, catalyzing for him the revelation that the first emperor of Qin, as a dictator who employed art as propaganda, was a historical precedent to Mao Zedong.  Zhang compared the megalomania of a tyrant who would divert untold labor (that of up to 700,000 men) to the creation of a tomb complex that would glorify him in the afterlife, with that of Mao, whose image was ubiquitous during the Cultural Revolution:  literally billions of his portraits were produced in the form of sculptures, paintings, posters, buttons, tapestries, and so on.  Qin Shi Huang is credited with destroying knowledge through the execution of intellectuals and destruction of books that were counter to his interests; Mao Zedong was responsible for death and destruction on an even grander scale, and Wanxin Zhang finally fully understood this upon viewing the terracotta army.

The works presented in the current exhibition include the artist’s familiar riffs on the terracotta army, as well as figures emerging from a red wall symbolic of Chinese culture, and sculptures referencing iconic Cultural Revolution objects.  Among the latter are discs featuring silhouettes of Mao’s face, referring to the Mao buttons whose large-scale production consumed so much metal that Mao once quipped the metal should perhaps be diverted to the manufacture of airplanes.  In comparison to the original small, mass-produced shiny red and gold Mao buttons, Zhang has created larger, obviously hand-hewn discs where the absence of Mao’s facial features is an obliteration equivalent to the destruction of “feudal,” “rightist,” and “anti-revolutionary” elements under Mao—which in real terms meant the destruction of individuals whose thinking was not in line with the policies of Mao or his representatives.  Notable among Mao’s supposed representatives were the Red Guards, young people excited by the idea of creating ongoing revolution, who in an unchecked frenzy performed widespread acts of destruction of cultural property, and violent persecution of anyone they considered anti-revolutionary.  Zhang has fashioned clay versions of the armbands worn by the Red Guards, inscribed with their identifying title, Hongweibing (Red Guard), but making subversive puns by substituting characters pronounced similarly but having different meanings (for example, inserting wei characters that mean tiny, flavor, and tail).  Zhang also has created a few models of the site most strongly associated with Mao’s power, Tiananmen, from where he made proclamations and addressed millions.  Sunflowers adorn two of the Tiananmen sculptures:  Zhang has commented, “When I was young, there was a song called ‘The [Communist] Party is the Sun, I am the Flower’ to convince the people that the government is all powerful and nurturing.  However, as I think back now from an artist’s perspective, I realize that that period is actually very dark, and the crude sun and the upside down flowers represent that. . . .  The period was definitely not as beautiful or ‘shiny’ as it was made out to be.”

Three sculptures in the exhibition depict figures emerging from a red slab background which may be a wall, but also suggests an imperial door adorned with bosses.  One figure is still embedded in the wall; a second has emerged and wears the blue of the Mao era or of the pre-Maoist scholar; and a third—whose features are most fully realized—sits at his ease clad in contemporary business attire.  According to the artist the wall represents Chinese culture, and the fact that different figures emerge from the same wall reflects the fact that some aspects of Chinese culture, notably central control, seem never to change.  Another figure is inscribed with numbers on his chest and stands against a white background:  he is standing in front of a shooting range target.  Zhang explains “The figure is a combination of Terra Cotta Warriors and Red Guards and demonstrates how they were being used by the government/dictator of their times and how they had no thoughts of their own.  Their full acceptance of the government is a hereditary slave-kind of thinking that was nurtured by the imposing government.”

Like the figure standing against a target, Zhang’s freestanding figures also merge Red Guard with terracotta warrior.  They have left youth behind, and their demeanors suggest disillusionment.  They are ready to fight for neither the protection of Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife, nor for Mao’s ongoing revolution:  the expectations placed upon them seem to have exhausted them.  In a sense this is heartening.  Unlike the terracotta warriors, who may appear to represent individuals but were assembled from endlessly recombined molded variants of different body parts, and unlike the Red Guards, who surrendered their individualism in favor of mass hysteria, these men appear to be individuals shaped by time and experience.  If society can learn from experience, too, then there is hope for the future.  That Wanxin Zhang serves up these complex ideas surrounding societal control with a touch of irreverent humor renders them all the more powerful.  He leads his viewers to the realization that past, present, and future are interrelated, and the legacy of the past must be understood for the sake of an unencumbered future.

Britta Erickson

(Note:  Catalogue essay funds were donated to the Red Cross for Sichuan earthquake relief.)


Artist Statement

Artist Statement by Zhang Wanxin

I absolutely believe that " revitalization" of artistic concepts through the past, present, and future is a very challenging task. Regardless of the cultural implications, space, and time between these acts of recreation, one must also keep in mind that art is not the only motivation behind them. More importantly, the spirit and content of today’s society is the true source of these attempts.

I grew up during an extremely chaotic time in China’s history, the politics in the 1960’s to 1970’s was more than just propaganda. The invisible brainwashing of the people to believe that Chairman Mao was their one and only leader, almost a deity was strong and undeterred. Thus, when I visited Terra Cotta Warriors of the Qin excavations – I immediately saw the similarities between these two societies. The feudal society of the Qin Empire demanded absolute obedience and submission to the King, an idea clearly reflected by the hordes of warriors in the pits. Yet thousands of years later, in modern China, this same oppression of the people is still alive and strong. It was that moment that I had the immediate inspiration to recreate these warriors and through an artist perspective.

Since I arrived in the United States many year ago, I was presented with an environment to voice my ideas and thoughts through my art. For someone with my background, this privilege is invaluable. With my new surroundings, including my connection with Christianity, influence from famous Bay Area funk artists, and the contemporary American artist society , this became the perfect birthplace for my attempt to re-conceptualize the warriors’ lives which is a serious subject matter with sense of humor. 

It was during this experience that I truly realized the challenge behind this attempt. Not only have I been able to constantly test the limits to see how far we can go with clay, also have to push myself to see how I can truly incorporate my purpose, inspirations, critiques, and reflections to convey contemporary message. My art now is not just a reflection of the appearances of the original warriors, but also include in them a new sense of spirit and meaning. After all, the Qin Terra Cotta warriors are history to us now, but my warriors could be history to generations after us.



For further information, please contact:

Canada: tel: (1) 604.688.2633, fax: (1) 604.688.2685