Wanxin Zhang | Fahrenheit

Exhibitions Catharine Clark Gallery

Wanxin Zhang | Fahrenheit

Nov 18 — Jan 20, 2018

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Catharine Clark Gallery presents Fahrenheit, an exhibition of new ceramic sculptures by Wanxin Zhang. As with Totem, Zhang’s 2014 exhibition at the gallery, Fahrenheit examines the hybridities and disruptions triggered by cross-cultural exchange. Zhang’s clay figures and landscapes continue to reference Chinese art historical traditions as well as the aesthetics of the Bay Area Figurative Movement and California Funk, an amalgamation that reflects the artist’s history of political disillusionment, expatriation and subsequent relocation to San Francisco.

Zhang’s newest works, however, respond to deeper fractures in contemporary global politics: in Yin and Yang Shan (2017), for example, a black clay form rests precariously on a Doric column, its trunk molded into a peak that resembles both a mountain as well as the dome of a Russian Orthodox Church.

The juxtapositions at play – between architecture and landscape, figuration and abstraction, Western and non-Western forms – suggest a constant cycle in which vying forces – whether political, structural or environmental – attempt to supplant one another.

For Zhang, however, these tensions also present generative possibilities for modes of being in which formal and empirical distinctions are blurred. Zhang remarks that each encapsulates “multiple perspectives” endowed with a “sense of humanity and movement” that embraces complex meanings. While the exhibition’s title gestures towards social volatility as well as the high temperatures required to fire clay, its Mandarin translation – “Hua Shi” – is also a cognate for the phrase “of Chinese descent.”

Fahrenheit also marks the debut of the artist’s first video works, which depict unfired ceramic works as they dissolve in water, a visual metaphor for precarity and possibilities suggested throughout the exhibition.