ZHANG XIAOGANG (B. 1958) In-Out Series No. 9, 2006
Lot 35W
ZHANG XIAOGANG
(B. 1958)
In-Out Series No. 9, 2006
Sold

Post-War & Contemporary Art

15 Nov 2017, 17:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
PROPERTY FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF MAX PROTETCH
ZHANG XIAOGANG (B. 1958) In-Out Series No. 9, 2006
ZHANG XIAOGANG (B. 1958)
In-Out Series No. 9, 2006

signed in Chinese and dated '2006' (lower right)
oil on canvas

78 1/2 x 59 in.
200 x 150 cm

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Beijing Commune, Beijing.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Exhibited
    Beijing, Beijing Commune, HOME, 18 April-28 May 2006.

    Literature
    J. Fineberg and G. Xu, Zhang Xiaogang: Disquieting Memories, London, 2015, no. 99 (illustrated in color, p. 133).

    As a gallery owner for over fifty years, Max Protetch was driven by a broad-minded interest in the conceptual and material ways in which our environment can be shaped by creative human intervention, and how we in turn are shaped by our environment. Such open-minded curiosity led Protetch to exhibit a wide range of contemporary practices over the years, from Pop to Minimal and Conceptual Art, from architectural drawings to Chinese Contemporary art. Protetch opened his first gallery in 1969. Initially based in Washington, D.C., this gallery showed works by Andy Warhol, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt and others. When he moved the gallery to New York in 1978, Protetch's focus shifted to architectural drawings. Over the years, he worked with many masters in the field, including Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and numerous others. During this time, Protetch also took an interest in contemporary art from China, and, dating back as early as 1998, he was a leading figure in bringing Chinese art to Western audiences, giving artists like Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan, Yue Minjun, and Fang Lijun their first New York exhibitions. Protetch additionally collected works by these artists himself, and, recognizing the disparity between Chinese artists' presence in the West and their relative lack of exhibition platforms within China, he became early supporter of the Beijing Commune, one of the first galleries to set up shop in the then-nascent arts district known as 798.

    The gallery has since closed its doors, leaving behind one of the most distinct profiles in the New York art world of the last half-century. Zhang Xiaogang's In-Out Series No. 9 comes from Protetch's personal collection and is reflective of his own clear taste: measured, meditative, reflective. Zhang Xiaogang is known for his extended exploration into the nature of history and memory, and the relationship between individual and collective experience. Zhang's central imagery has always revolved around the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the extended period of chaos in China that caused immense damage to individual families as well as the nation. Zhang first drew upon the imagery of family portraits to address the fates of generations born into the Cultural Revolution. As his practice has evolved, Zhang has delved into much more idiosyncratic, personal imagery: paintings that depict scenes that are nonetheless immediately recognizable and easily shared.

    With In-Out Series No. 9, Zhang presents a lightly blurred composition of a bedroom corner. Typical of his practice is the conflation of near photo-realist techniques with dream-like moods and details. The canvas is almost black and white in palette, with green tones emerging in the wall paint and more plainly in the military coat discarded on the wicker chair. The checkered floor and two-tone walls reference stock communist housing, and the coat itself is common winter wear among the present and former military. The room is decorated humbly: a traditional bird and flower painting hangs above the chair; a porcelain vase is prominent on the messy dresser. Neither effectively lighten this otherwise unkempt, quotidian scene. A corner of the bed can be seen in the lower left, as disheveled as the coat itself. Such details are reminiscent of some of Zhang's earliest works, which used stylized fabric to evoke Biblical imagery and conjure feelings of mourning, loss, and sacrifice.

    Zhang's images are easily compared to the "blurred" realist paintings of Gerhard Richter, but Zhang's own approach is firmly rooted in his interest in their interplay with memory, dreams, and the unconscious. Zhang has stated, "The images of my past have faded away in my present reality, but have also become more immediate in my dream—so much so that I often cannot tell whether they belonged to the past, or are an on-going drama."1

    As such, in a work like In-Out Series No. 9, the lack of temporal markers gives the work a timeless quality, and the scene could depict some fragment of memory or a desultory bedroom corner today. For Zhang there is no difference, as the canvas is infused with fragility and a melancholy that is omnipresent. As such, his works are not cool but soulful. As in any dream, an unusual element has infiltrated this otherwise fixed image: a sinewy extension chord that snakes improbably out from the sheets, a detail deliberately painted with heightened clarity, as if to bring the viewer or the painter himself out of a reverie and back into the present moment.

    For artists of Zhang's generation, official Socialist Realist paintings often serve as an unconscious foil to their works. Zhang is, to a certain extent, always painting against that legacy, the propagandistic works that depicted relentlessly idealized scenes of Chinese social and political life. Painting on a monumental scale, Zhang seems to insist that his quiet, mysterious works are the true "history" paintings, honoring a truth that is subjective, fragile, haunted and poetic.

    1. X. Zhang, Artist Statement, 2003.
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