Zhang Hongtu

first USA survey of Zhang Hongtu

While recently visiting Queens Museum NYC, we met with the work of Zhang Hongtu (1943 CN). The Queens Museum presents the first U.S. survey of Zhang Hongtu’s work and includes pieces from the late 1950s to the present, giving an overview of Zhang’s art-making from his early days in China to his move to New York in 1982 on to today, resulting in a vast body of work in shifting subject matter and styles.

One of the rooms in the exhibition was dedicated to Zhang’s reworking works and style of Vincent Van Gogh. Zhang has remade all 39 extant Van Gogh self portraits in a variety of traditional Chinese ink techniques. He began the series in 2007, after carefully studying these methods and likewise emerging himself in the styles of Van Gogh.

I always think of it as a bit odd, when an artist chooses to redo work in the handwriting of an other artist but Zhang, with his Chinese roots, is not the copyist you might think of with a first glimpse at his work. It’s simply the way he emerges himself into a subject or topic, with a studious and encyclopedic approach. Luckily Zhang gradually finds himself adapting to a more personal touch in his creative expression which results in a more personal recognizable style but even then he still reverses to the qualities of old Chinese art skills and techniques, notwithstanding he offers himself some jokes with the silhouette of the big leader Mao or porcelain Coca bottles and brass Burger boxes.

Zhang Hongtu, October 18th – February 28 2016
Queens Museum Flushing Meadows Corona Park
image: Van Gogh – Bodiharma, ink on paper Zhang Hongtu, 2015

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