MORE THAN ONE WAY HOME
October 10 - November 24, 2020
Baahng Gallery celebrates its 2020 reopening with More Than One Way Home, an exhibition featuring the gallery’s represented artists: Sophie Matisse, Janet Taylor Pickett, and Zhang Hongtu. The exhibition offers a glimpse into the struggles of the artists and their coming to terms with their individual challenges. Sophie, the great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse and step-granddaughter of Marcel Duchamp, is an American oil painter working in New York City; Janet is an African American multi-media artist working on the West Coast; Hongtu is a Muslim Chinese artist who has been working in New York since 1982. The exhibition acknowledges and affirms that home, for these artists, is not situated in nostalgia. Rather, through a cyclical process of revisitation, they find home in both the present and future potential. More Than One Way Home follows a journey through each artist’s rite of passage in life and is a compelling visualization of distinct, individual expressive forms. Baahng Gallery is open Monday thru Friday, noon to 3pm, and by appointment.
Selected works from Sophie Matisse’s ‘Be Back in Five Minutes’ series are strategically installed in the gallery. Returning to renowned paintings by Gustave Courbet, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Charles Wilson Peale through her unique lens, she appropriates and embellishes upon, or subtracts from, recognizable works from art history. The interplay between absence and presence in these haunting paintings is evocative. Featured as well is her most recent painting, ‘Homeward 1’. In this contemplative autobiographical tondo completed during the pandemic quarantine, the artist positions an errant chess piece peering out over a window ledge into the hazy verdant void, invoking solitude and the uncertain but hopeful future ahead. More Than One Home highlights some of the most intriguing works from her celebrated series and is her inaugural show at Baahng Gallery commemorating her gallery representation.
‘Mappings of Memory’, a survey showcasing Janet Taylor Picket’s works, introduces selected paintings, collages, sculptures, and quilts from the 1990s through 2020. Her experiential work chronicles her journey as an African American woman, daughter, mother, and artist. Images drawn from art history, Africa, America and Europe, past and present, coexist in her often-ornate collages and paintings, defying linear timeframes and logical geographic or cultural relationships. The inclusion of the shipping crates in which the works were transported to the gallery adds a poignant historical dimension to the installation, referencing both her personal odyssey and that of her ancestors. The suggestive titles of the works on view reflect her creative vision: ‘Spirit Catchers', ‘Hot House', 'Melon Dress’, 'Exotica Botanica’, ‘Thoughtful Resilience’, and ‘She Has An Agency,’ the latter produced in 2020. These works constitute the artist’s confessional narrative circling back with newly found wisdom in life as well as in art. More Than One Way Home inaugurates Pickett’s representation with Baahng Gallery and presents her first New York exhibition.
Zhang Hongtu’s video, ‘Van Gogh/Bodhidharma’, is the centerpiece of his installation. This mesmerizing video production builds on his seven-year project (2007 – 2014), a set of 39 ink paintings that rework Van Gogh’s 39 extant self-portrait oil paintings in the style of classical Zen portraits of Bodhidharma. Revealed in both this video and the original endeavor upon which it was based are parallels in the lives and aesthetics of Zhang and Van Gogh. The artist compels viewers in both iterations of this project to reconsider Van Gogh’s fascination with Asian aesthetics, registering a more philosophical connection and inner resonance between the European post-impressionist artist and the East. Reflecting upon this project, Zhang expresses his approach as one that ‘dares to mate a horse with an ox’. Framing the video are wall texts quoting provocative passages from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo and to Paul Gauguin. More Than One Way Home marks the launch of Zhang’s visionary ‘Van Gogh/Bodhidharma Project’—a quixotic effort to unite his ink paintings with the original painted portraits—and announces his official gallery representation with Baahng Gallery.
Corona Conversations: EAST & WEST
CUNY FORUM Volume 8:1 (2020)
An Online International Edition
Each month in May, June & July 2020, CUNY FORUM will feature essays; analysis; literary, artistic, and poetic responses; conversations and community resources around the global COVID-19 pandemic from comparative Asian American and Asian perspectives. Contributing writers hail from, or originate in the U.S., Peoples Republic of China, Taiwan, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Macao, etc.
Zhang Hongtu’s works will be shown at the exhibition, Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001, at The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York City: May 13 – September 12, 2021
Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001
May 13 – September 12, 2021
Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001 will examine the work of Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, which launched a generation of young artists and curators. It catalyzed a needed political and aesthetic conversation at a critical time in the histories of alternative arts, “multiculturalist” politics, and the shifting Asian diaspora. And it produced a body of exhibitions, collaborative projects, critical writing, and connections that reshaped the contours of American art.
Godzilla: Asian American Art Network was founded by curator Margo Machida and artists Bing Lee and Ken Chu in 1990 in New York, taking the name of the feared Japanese pop monster. Their goal was to “establish a dynamic forum” to “foster information exchange, mutual support, documentation, and networking among the expanding numbers of Asian American visual artists all across the United States.”
The founders chose not to incorporate as a not-for-profit, instead creating a roving, mostly-volunteer, flexible organization. Membership, though never formalized by dues, quickly expanded: after Godzilla’s famed open letter to the Whitney Museum, over 200 artists registered — a racially, aesthetically, and politically diverse group. The members of Godzilla gathered to show each other’s work in “slide slams,” challenged institutionalized racism in the arts, wrote arts criticism, threw parties, co-organized exhibitions, debated politics, and spread the word about artist opportunities.
This exhibition will be the first ever to focus on the art and legacy of Godzilla: Asian American Art Network. It will include key artworks, original artifacts, historical ephemera and documentation to tell the story of this seminal group.
Godzilla: Asian American Art Network will also be examined within a larger narrative, from the politicized formation of Asian American identity in the ’70s to the resurgence of arts collectives today. In a time when arts institutions still struggle to be inclusive, and many young artists see collectivism and organizing as inseparable from their arts practice, Godzilla offers a needed story of artists taking their fate into their own hands.
The exhibition will be co-curated by Herb Tam, MOCA’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions, and Ryan Lee Wong, guest curator.
Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001
May 13 – September 12, 2021
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), New York
– Baahng Gallery congratulates Zhang Hongtu on inclusion of an edition of his Mai Dang Lao, 2002, in the permanent collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
– An edition of Zhang Hongtu‘s Mai Dang Lao, 2002, is currently on view at the Arts of Asia in Brooklyn Museum.
Saturday, 1-3 pm, November 16, 2019
at Baahng Gallery
Baahng Gallery is pleased to present I DARE TO MATE A HORSE WITH AN OX, the gallery’s inaugural solo exhibition of the highly celebrated works of Zhang Hongtu, a Chinese-born, New York-based artist and forerunner of the Chinese “Political Pop” art movement. The exhibition will be on view at the gallery from September 27 through November 8, with an opening reception with the artist to be held on Friday, September 27, from 6 to 8 pm.
To dare to mate a horse with an ox is to dare to break down the zygotic barriers that maintain the separation of species. This notion of doing the impossible and breaking down barriers has been the lodestar of Zhang Hongtu’s life and five decade-long career. As a Muslim outsider in China, then as a Chinese exile in America, through his works, he has continually sought to disintegrate dividing walls in culture, politics, and time. His works involve thoughtful juxtapositions of critique with humor, and the appropriation of images of authority figures and cultural icons, for the purpose of deflating the power of such formidably divisive influences. While each work captures and contemplates a multi-layered discourse on competing ideas, the exhibition as a whole unexpectedly proposes universality and relevancy.
I DARE TO MATE A HORSE WITH AN OX highlights selected works from Zhang’s series Shansui, Political Pop, and Van Gogh/Bodhidharma. Van Gogh/Bodhidharma consists of 39 ink paintings created over the course of seven years, 2007-2014. They are the Van Gogh “self-portraits” merged into the style of the classical Zen portraits of Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. His morphing of Van Gogh and Bodhidharma into one is a remarkable display of the artist’s masterful ability to dissolve distinctions between two icons. Also on view are: Bada! Bada!!-11, #2, 2011, a lopsided map of China facing a mob of angry fish; Walking Monkey, 2016, a warning on a disrupted ecosystem; Landscape, Out of the Focus, 2011, a questioning of the assumption of near-sightedness; Long Live Chairman Mao Series, 1987-1995; Zodiac Figures, 2002; Mai Dang Lao, 2002; and Six-Pack of Kekou-Kele, 2002.
Zhang Hongtu was born in Gansu, China, in 1943. He attended the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts in Beijing 1964-1969, moved to New York in 1982, and attended Art Students League 1982-1986. Selected solo exhibitions include at Queens Museum, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kansas, the Connecticut College Charles E. Shain Library, The Bronx Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan. Selected group exhibitions at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museu Picasso, Spain, Brooklyn Museum, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio, Princeton University Art Museum, Israel Museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Cuba, The Hall for Contemporary Art, Hamburg, Germany, Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany, and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan.
I DARE TO MATE A HORSE WITH AN OX
September 27 – November 16, 2019
Opening reception with the artist
6-8pm, Friday September 27
Zhang Hongtu’s works were shown at Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 6, 2017 – January 7, 2018.
Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
October 6, 2017 – January 7, 2018
By Savanna Maude, THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL
September 22, 2018
Zhang Hongtu, an internationally acclaimed artist, will debut his first solo show in the Midwest on Tuesday at Kansas State University.
The exhibition, titled “Culture Mixmaster Zhang Hongtu,” will be installed in the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art through Dec. 22.
The exhibition brings together early and recent works highlighting Hongtu’s expressions of his hybrid cultural roots.
Hongtu grew up in China as a member of its Muslim minority, suffering persecution for his religion and his political beliefs under the regime of People’s Republic of China founder and Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong.
Hongtu traveled around China as a young artist and was heavily influenced by his study trip to Dunhuang in the western province of Gansu.
Dunhuang was an important stop along the network of trade routes known as the Silk Road, which connected Europe and Africa to the Middle East and Asia. Through the Silk Road, Buddhism traveled from India to China, resulting in the establishment of Buddhist cave temples around Dunhuang between the fourth and 14th centuries. The cave temples featured painting styles different from what Hongtu learned in art school and showed signs of the mural artists’ awareness of European painting.
In 1982, Hongtu moved to New York City to study art.
His works show a lifelong interest in the cycle of travel, immigration, transmission of ideas and cultural cross-pollination.
Included in the exhibit are an oil painting applying the signature style of Vincent van Gogh to a landscape scene from a famous Chinese ink painting, and a Ping Pong table that requires players to avoid letting the ball fall through cutouts in the shape of the head of Chairman Mao.
Hongtu will speak at K-State at the Art in Motion festival on Oct. 6. He also will speak about Buddhist cave temples along the Silk Road on Oct. 9 at the Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus.
The Beach Museum of Art is free to the public, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
By Megan Moser, The Mercury, Manhattan, Kansas, October 7th, 2018
Zhang Hongtu seemed genuinely excited to be in Manhattan on Wednesday.
The New York City-based artist and his wife, Miaoling, were in the Little Apple for the opening of his exhibition Culture Mixmaster, which is at K-State’s Beach Museum of Art through December. Zhang’s It’s his first solo show in the Midwest.
During a preview last week, Zhang, a youthful septuagenarian with white hair and trendy glasses, said he was thrilled with the way the exhibit had turned out.
“With this show, I didn’t come here to see the process of installation,” Zhang said, complimenting the museum’s curators. “It’s beyond my imagination. It’s still my work, but under a different concept of installation, lighting.”
Zhang’s work, like his life, is a blending of the East and the West.
Zhang grew up in China but has lived in America since the 1980s, so he’s now been in the U.S. as long as he had been in China. He likes to say he’s 100-percent Chinese and 100-percent American.
“When you see the show, you’ll see works that mix the tradition from Western European painting with classical Chinese painting,” curator Aileen June Wang said. “And all of his life, Hongtu has been thinking about this question and celebrating the richness of cultural exchange and cultural mixing.”
The pieces on display show a playful combination of influences and represent Zhang’s interest in the effects of travel and migration on culture.
The works include classic blue-and-white Chinese ceramics in the distinctive shape of Coke bottles, and a self-portrait that blends the styles of Pablo Picasso and Leonardo DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa.” That portrait was first made on the computer with Photoshop, and printed with an inkjet printer Wang said. Zhang later painted a version of it, so the printed version that’s on display at the Beach is actually the original, she said.
One entire gallery is devoted to a reimagining of Vincent Van Gogh’s 39 portraits as those of the Zen Bodhidharma.
Perhaps the most fun piece is an “interactive sculpture” called “Ping Pong Mao,” a table tennis table whose surface features cutout silhouettes of Chairman Mao Zedong.
On Saturday the museum staged a tournament using the table.
Zhang said the experience of playing on it — and trying to keep the ball from falling through the cutouts — is similar to the experience of living in China after the Cultural Revolution.
“The situation in China is still like this,” Zhang said. “You can criticize someone else, but not political leaders. So nothing changes, politically.”
He mentioned that his wife was a ping-pong champion at her school when she was a girl. Miaoling shook her head furiously, embarrassed by the attention.
Ping pong was an important tool in diplomatic relations between the United States in China in the 1970s. The use of the ping-pong table is another example of east-west culture exchange.
Zhang grew up in China as part of the Muslim minority. Because of his family’s religious and political beliefs, he said they suffered persecution under Mao, and he often felt like an outsider.
His family relocated many times between the Chinese Civil War and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. At that time, he saw the political movement as edgy and was eager for change, so he supported it. He began to have doubts, though, when he saw the violence that arose from the revolution. He said he felt he had been fooled by someone he believed in.
He attended art school in China, where anything the students produced had to fit within the narrow scope of communist ideals, and there was a heavy emphasis on depicting Chairman Mao.
After college, Zhang continued to travel and immigrated to the United States in 1982 to find artistic freedom. His wife followed in 1984 with their son. Zhang and his wife now live in Woodside, Queens, a diverse neighborhood where Zhang told The New York Times “I’ve never felt like a foreigner.”
He got early attention for works like his 1989 “Last Banquet,” a version of “The Last Supper” that substitutes 13 Maos for Jesus and his disciples, a work that was part of a Guggenheim exhibit last year. Ironically, that piece was censored, though Zhang said.
Though he hasn’t lived in China for 30 years, Zhang said his view of China is still relevant today, as Mao’s influence persists. That said, he moved away from using Mao’s likeness in the 1990s.
Certainly the most attention-grabbing piece in the exhibition is the 45-by-12-foot “Great Wall with Gates III.”
Zhang made the first version of that work in 2009 for the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
He made the current version especially for the Beach exhibit. It’s a digital image of the Great Wall of China altered with Photoshop to include a number of gates.
“I used the Great Wall not only about China, but basically about walls. Walls always divide, always stop people (from) going through,” he said. “I picked the image of the wall but with many many gates to change the function of the wall. Make it playful, not to block anymore.”
The exhibit’s title wall features a reproduction of a painting called Two Monkeys. Beach Museum curator Aileen June Wang said she asked Zhang whether the monkeys in the painting represented him, and he handed her a card that said, “You can ask me anything except about the monkeys,” she recalled, laughing.
But Wang said she and museum director Linda Duke have a theory. In Chinese literature there is a classic called “Journey to the West” about the adventures of a monkey god who accompanies a Chinese monk as he travels to India to get sutras and bring them back to China to contribute to the study of Buddhism.
“The journey of that monkey god is similar, or Hongtu feels some affinity, to the adventures of that character,” Wang said. Zhang smiled as she explained this but neither confirmed nor denied the hypothesis.
Artist talk by Zhang Hongtu
5 p.m. Tuesday
Zhang will share his experience of traveling to Dunhuang in western China, a town known as a hub of cultural exchange connecting Europe and Asia.