Warhol / Mao
Dimensions: 81 x 27 x 20″
Media: fired clay and pigment
Wanxin Zhang’s fired clay and pigment work, Warhol/Mao, is a sculptural rendition of Andy Warhol’s silk screen portrait of Chairman Mao, which challenged reproducibility and consumer culture when it first emerged in 1973. By using the work of a canonical artist as a starting point, Zhang suggests that art defies the constraints of copyright and artist-specific identity; this also interacts with the political reality in Zhang’s home country of China, where individuals that threaten the government are often censored or physically erased and propaganda images of rulers are distributed amongst the public.
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 coun-try—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