Zhang Xianyong // 中国
Zhang Xianyong is a Chinese artist and photographer based in Shanghai. In his main body of work, Zhang poses himself as each of a cohort of seemingly endless People’s Liberation Army men, playing, talking, fighting with Spiderman. He also sometimes does other characters - Shanghai dandies and of course the elderly - but mostly, it’s People’s Liberation Army soldiers. The optimization of our cities is a political act that rings with long-seeded social values that are often outdated. Zhang takes advantage of systematic conventions in the creation of an artwork. He co-opts the aesthetics of separate ideologies and periods to bring forward their kinship, or lack thereof, with the individual. His work, which is funny, creates images by the selection and jocular manipulation of a guarded and self-serious symbols and motifs. Zhang makes use of a galaxy of knowledge about Chinese and European traditions in the construction of an artistic image. He saluted DaVinci with Red Army soldiers in Last Supper, an image he considers his first mature work as an artist. If you show Zhang a spot Jesus’ disciple once sat, and he’ll dress up like a Red Army soldier, take a picture of himself eating baozi, and fill that spot as it was meant to be filled. By absconding with ideals, he does something funny, but the type of funny that is just despair. Our traditional artistic canons march forward, with us creators, viewers, and patrons swept up into someone else’s head-trip. That’s not, like, cool. So, he meddles. Zhang creates room to breathe and take the adze of image-making for our own purposes. The artists’ works are also unstuck in time. They mix old nostalgia and new contemporary material and are not easy to locate on any conventional ruler of temporal progression. Thus, we are luckily divorced from nostalgia in viewing his works. So, take advantage anachronistic moment and say, “Thank you Zhang Xianyong.