Wanxin Zhang – The Waves
Dimensions: 42 x 20 x 15″ / 42 x 20 x 15″ sculpture
Medium: fired clay with glaze
Wanxin Zhang’s work, The Waves, is an adaptation on the Greek sculptor Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo, which depicts the nude body of a female figure, her dignity upheld by an artfully draped fabric concealing her lower body. Zhang has appropriated the originally white marble work by covering her body in a black glaze, reminiscent of an oil spill or abject substance, and has replaced Antioch’s original head with one shown in profile. Through this, Zhang plays on the idea of copyright and reproducibility by depriving a canonical artist of his sense of ownership, simultaneously suggesting that work is often conceived by building on the past and what already exists.
Wanxin Zhang is a Chinese artist who has spent much of his career creating and teaching in the United States, after moving to San Francisco in 1992 to receive his Master in Fine Arts at the Academy of Art University. Zhang’s work often focuses on blurring the line between the past and present; after visiting the Qin dynasty terra cotta warriors, Zhang observed that many of the regulations associated with the oppressive Chinese government were not specific to a contemporary context, but have been implemented throughout Chinese history. Zhang uses his clay works to sustain a critical and analytical dialogue on the political atmosphere within his home country—simultaneously playing with the contrast to western democracy and the artistic liberties it has allowed him. Zhang’s work has been influenced by Bay Area artistic movements such as the figurative and funk movements, and draws from the work of artists like Stephen de Staebler and Peter Voulkos. Zhang’s sculptural works are typically made with clay, which allows him to “push the boundaries of what clay can express” and “to see how [he] can truly incorporate [his] purpose, inspirations, and critiques to reflect life”.
by Keira Seidenberg