Stella Zhang and Hong Chun Zhang
Body, Self, and Identity

NanHai Art, Milbrae / United States

July 27–August 30, 2019
July 18, 2019
Opening: July 27, 4–6pm

NanHai Art
510 Broadway
Milbrae, California 94030
United States

T +1 650 259 2100
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NanHai Art is pleased to present Body, Self, and Identity: Stella Zhang and Hong Chun Zhang, a duo exhibition featuring the art of Stella Zhang and Hong Chun Zhang, artists both graduated from the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in their native China and had rigorous training in CAFA’s affiliated high school prior to entering college, both further pursued art studies overseas (Stella Zhang received MFA from Tokyo Art University in Tokyo, Japan; Hong Chun Zhang received MFA from University of California, Davis), and now live and work in their adopted home, the United States. While both artists’ work is about female (and sometimes also male in Stella’s works) bodies, self, and identity, they approach their art with distinctive practices reveal distinctive artistic languages. This exhibition thoughtfully juxtaposes the clear, strong, feminist statements of Stella Zhang’s work, and the intimate and sensual drawings of Hong Chun Zhang. The exhibition will be open on July 27 at 4pm. Both artists will be present for the reception.

Stella Zhang’s art is about the body. Muscle, fat, flesh, and skin are represented in various materials including fabric, acrylic paint and metallic thread, and in various formats—including painting, sculpture and installation. The tension between their visual and haptic aspects draws the viewer into the kinesthetic and physiological process of their making. Zhang’s choice and use of materials connect her to numerous women artists of the past several decades for whom the body and its imperatives are central concerns. Consider the painting and sculpture of Louise Bourgeois, Lee Bontecou, and Yayoi Kusama, as well as Sonia Gomes, Shinique Smith and Kaari Upton, all of whom reorient textile-based craft and applied arts into a language of feminist critique. Like them, Zhang pushes materials associated with women’s work and formerly of low status—fabric and thread—into emblems of power and desire. Zhang employs slits, ovoids, or gaping holes in a pictorial field of monochrome or near monochrome color featuring centrally located openings. She also employs other actions, such as wrapping and knot ties, twists fabric and bulges stuffed with cotton batten—displace the primacy of the opening—replacing wholeness with messy landscapes of creases, bunching and folds. The actual physical rending of fabric is an undeniable recognition of a more turbulent and psychological relationship within the self and a manifestation of a restless soul.

Hong Chun Zhang has adopted hair as the subject of her work and has been working with hair imagery since 2002, when she first created a set of two large hanging scrolls of charcoal drawings, Twin Spirit #1, portraying herself and her identical twin, with a view of their hair from behind, long, straight, and black. In her artist statement, Zhang says, “According to Eastern culture, a women’s long hair is associated with life force, sexual energy, growth, and beauty. I have had long hair since high school and it has become a part my identity.” These drawings are presented as scroll paintings in order to accentuate the length and the flow of long hair. The larger than life scale creates an imposing three-dimensional effect. The charcoal medium incorporates fine details, darkness and illumination, while also relates to the aesthetics of traditional Chinese ink painting. Zhang has since created several sets of large hanging scrolls of long hair or long braid, which are now in important public and private collections around the world. Recently, Zhang created a series of water-themed works, combining hair and water, such as the 18-feet-long horizontal scroll Currents (2012), 10-feet-long scroll Curl #2 (2015), as well as smaller drawings Small Wave Series (2018 and 2019). Filled with dynamic energy and flow, these works brings together two universal materials, with water as source of life, and hair as energy force of human beings, suggests the union between the artist’s identity and nature.