Zhang Huan – Family Tree, 2001
December 11th sees New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art host seventy works by thirty-five Chinese contemporary artists in Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China; across four thematic groupings—the written word, new landscapes, abstraction, and beyond the brush—the exhibition will illustrate the artist’s often subversive reinterpretation of what is historically China’s foremost high art practice.
Amongst the chosen artists appears contemporary Chinese performer Zhang Huan, known for his often provocative works across performance, sculpture and photography, his practice is concerned with the body, presented through his own and those of others, positioning himself in extreme and often painful conditions seeking to remark on the conventions of the culture that surrounds him. One work for example, triggered by an experience in a rancid public restroom in a small village not unlike that in which he grew up, saw Zhang spread on his body “a visceral liquid of fish and honey to attract the flies in the public restroom in the village. He sat on the toilet, almost immobile for an hour” after which hundreds of flies covered the artist’s body. It is his works referencing the calligraphic arts of his past, though, that draw focus in the exhibition. 2001’s Family Tree sees nine portraits of the artist’s face sequentially documenting the process of three calligraphers transcribing a range of names and passages significant to the artist’s lineage until the accumulation becomes an indistinguishable mass of black as the “elaborate web of social and cultural relations smother any sense of the individual”.
12 Square Meters, 1994
Zhang Huan, 1998
The exhibition will run until April 2014