Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Zhong Biao: American Debut

Zhong Biao: American Debut


Zhong Biao, Middaysun, 2006.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- For nearly five years, Frey Norris Gallery has presented the work of Chinese artist, Zhong Biao, during which time the global thirst for Chinese art and artists has grown exponentially. Highly publicized record auction prices, and hoards of art world speculators flocking to China have driven both interest in and scholarship on contemporary Chinese art. Why should anyone care about the American debut of a Chinese artist when an ever-increasing profusion of galleries have begun focusing on Chinese art?

Some years from now, the dust will settle from the Chinese art craze and the first bursting of the first speculative collecting bubble. While no one can readily predict what the future will hold for individual artists or works of art; one thing is relatively certain; this period of massive cultural change will mark a tipping point in art history, a shift away from more Euro and American-centric orientations and towards a pluralistic global art community, wherein Chinese artists and thinkers will play a pivotal roll. The public should take note, if only to experience a microcosm of this mad, mad art world through the looking-glass of a relatively modest, thoughtful and diligent artist, one who’s paintings embody some of the more nuanced and sincere aspects of an important generation of Chinese creativity. While Zhong Biao may be a rock star in China, pressured to show in more and more museums around the world or to see his work realize higher and higher prices on the open market, this artist remains entirely cognizant that his chance to make a mark and be known is fleeting. His opportunity to speak his truth on canvas or in our catalogue’s interview is an opportunity that was not afforded to many of his ancestors. It will then, ultimately, be the public that decides if his efforts are sufficiently important to endure.

About the Art - Zhong Biao will exhibit thirteen new large scale canvases in his signature surreal style, one that juxtaposes the old with the new, the East with the West and the individual with the collective. Large areas of raw linen canvas surround images that evoke lives packed with quick indulgences and battling ideologies. Paintings such as “What a Great Country: You Can Do Anything” serve as meditations on a newly divergent spectrum of socio-economic classes within China, the unities and divisions of the haves and have-nots. A depicted banner in this painting proclaims, “In the vast world, there are plenty of opportunities to fulfill one’s potential,” inviting the viewer, outsider or Chinese citizen to question the verity of this slogan.

The first in this new body of work, appropriate for his American debut, is entitled “Welcome,” incorporating a Han Dynasty figurine, spear-wielding children drawn from 1960’s Cultural Revolution propaganda and an English language banner that seems pulled from the chest of a beauty pageant winner.

“Mid-Day Sun,” the second largest canvas in the show and arguably the centerpiece, covers a number of jarring juxtapositions; a Black Hawk helicopter invokes the threat of war or armed conflict, a crowd resembling a graduating college class or corporate group displays saccharine smiles, and a sensuous woman confronts the viewer on an unmade mattress, her pointed heels directed into the extreme foreground. Is the “Mid-Day Sun” the light of governmental transparency, the heat of sexual provocation or simply a description of the weather?

Perhaps no one understands the artist and his visual skills better than the curator and essayist for the exhibition, Britta Erickson, a close friend of the artist for nearly ten years:

Zhong Biao’s approach to his focal concern of simultaneity of existence has become increasingly sophisticated, beginning with an appreciation of the relationship between the past, the present, and the future—including the changing significance of historical objects as they move through time—and progressing to an understanding of the coexistence of diverse individual psyches, disconnected and yet interrelated. We should not let the lush young women and bright arresting colors of his recent works distract us from an appreciation of the images’ philosophical underpinnings. In fact, such a combination of easy superficial attractiveness overlaying a search for spiritual meaning vividly reflects the lives of many members of China’s urban intellectual elite who, having achieved a comfortable metropolitan lifestyle, now seek for deeper meaning.


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