Chinese-American Artist Explores History of the East and the West Through the Lens of an Outsider

By: Apr. 15, 2019
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Chinese-American Artist Explores History of the East and the West Through the Lens of an Outsider

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is pleased to present Zhao Gang: History Painting, an exhibition of fourteen paintings that bring together the radically multicultural aspects of Gang's art and identity as an artist who is both Chinese and American. On view from May 24, 2019 through January 5, 2020, the exhibition serves as a critical re-reading of the history of contemporary art both in the East and the West.

Zhao Gang is a key figure in Chinese contemporary art, and the youngest member of the Stars Group- China's first modern art movement. Born in Beijing in 1961, Gang left China in 1983 to study, live, and work in Europe and the United States. After returning to China 24 years later, Gang developed a dynamic, provocative painting practice that freely combines Western and Eastern influences as a lens to reflect on the profound changes affecting his native country. Before Gang left, there was no such thing as "Chinese contemporary art." By the time he returned, globalization had ushered in not just multiple styles and forms of art, but also an entire art economy.

Zhao Gang: History Painting will feature fourteen paintings, dating from 1997 to 2018, that bring together the complex cross-cultural aspects of Gang's identity and practice. Though the artist is Chinese and American, he is considered-and considers himself-an outsider in both cultures. As both native and newcomer, Gang has developed a darkly ironic, often crude approach to depicting Chinese history. His paintings elide centuries-old tropes with images from the Cultural Revolution, images drawn from memories of his childhood, and images of China as an economic and cultural powerhouse in the new millennium.

A number of the works will be displayed salon style inside a 130 square foot "apartment" built inside PAMM's Rose Ellen Meyerhoff Greene and Gerald Greene Gallery in order to mimic the Beijing practice of showing art in residential apartments-a practice that sustained the city's experimental scene in the 1980s and '90s. The idea of "apartment art" rose as young artists organized exhibitions at home as a response to the lack of exhibition opportunities and government-approved venues. Gang's "apartment show" will materialize the challenges faced by artists of his generation in China, while drawing parallels between instances of censorship in both East and West, as well as artists' responses to the ongoing curtailing of freedom of expression.

Zhao Gang: History Painting strengthens and expands PAMM's emphasis on the art and culture of the Atlantic Rim-the Americas, Western Europe and Africa-all places that have historically seen a significant uptick in the presence of Chinese investment, immigration, and culture. In the same way in which it is possible to speak about artists who represent a gender-neutral intersection of identities and cultures as Latinx, it is also possible to speak about Zhao Gang's artworks as being emblematic of and anticipating a growing Chinese-Western cross-culturalism. His paintings, in many ways, predict and expand the idea of a contemporary art that opposes cultural binaries and incorporates ideas and motifs from many cultures at once.

Zhao Gang: History Painting is organized by Guest Curator Christian Viveros-Fauné and coordinated at Pérez Art Museum Miami by Assistant Curator Jennifer Inacio.


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