Arts and Entertainment

Bellevue Arts Museum to present a collision of cultures

Wanxin Zhang works on one of his massive ceramic figures. - Courtesy photo
Wanxin Zhang works on one of his massive ceramic figures.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Wanxin Zhang still remembers the first time he encountered the terracotta warriors guarding the tomb of China's First Emperor, unearthed in Xi'an in 1974.

"I silently asked myself: Who were they? Where did they come from? Why are they standing here?" Zhang recalls.

Still haunted by that impression many years and miles later, his massive ceramic figures raise the same questions today.

Zhang, who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao, was already an established artist before immigrating to San Francisco in 1992. His larger-than-life sculptures, reminiscent of the terracotta warriors at Xi'an, draw not only upon his Chinese roots, but also upon his cross-cultural identity.

His work is influenced by the iconic self-portraits of Robert Arneson, father of the 1960s California Clay Funk Revolution, and Peter Voulkos, in whose Oakland foundry he had the opportunity to work. Balancing traditional imagery with modern, often Western peculiarities, Zhang imbues each of his figures with distinct personality.

As Zhang states, "My pieces are about finding my personal identity while sparking a contemporary dialog about social, historical and political issues."

Wanxin Zhang: A Ten Year Survey marks the first in-depth survey of this internationally celebrated artist. The exhibition, which features 19 larger-than-life ceramic sculptures, will be on view at Bellevue Arts Museum from Feb. 23 to Aug. 9. Coinciding with the exhibition, the artist will present a lecture at Bellevue Arts Museum on April 1.

The exhibit at BAM is organized by Arizona State University Art Museum and curated by Peter Held, Curator of Ceramics at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center and Mindy Solomon for the Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, Florida. The local presentation of this exhibition is curated by Stefano Catalani and made possible by 4Culture.

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