Wonder Ball | Wanxin Zhang


Wanxin Zhang
Born 1961, Changchun, China
Lives and works in San Francisco

Red Coat, 2014
High-fired clay with glaze
29 x 10 x 7 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Retail value: $9,000

In both their subject matter and technique, Wanxin Zhang draws inspiration for his powerful clay figures from his personal history. Initially trained at China’s Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art, Zhang immigrated in 1992 to California, where he worked under Peter Voulkos and became influenced by the Bay Area Funk movement. Following a visit in 1983 to China, where he saw the terra-cotta warriors recently discovered in Xion, Zhang began experimenting with their forms in his work. His art became a fascinating hybrid of traditions. 

Zhang’s imposing, bold, and impressive individuals neither brandish weapons nor wear impressive regalia. Instead, his heavy slabs of clay thickly layered with glaze and bearing often bizarre heads display an air of abstraction. Zhang often focuses on political relationships in his work, referring to events from the past and finding eerily similar situations in the present. 

This lot also includes a visit to Zhang’s studio in San Francisco.

Wanxin Zhang received his MFA in sculpture from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, and has been teaching in the ceramics department of California College of the Arts since 2012. His numerous solo and group exhibitions include the San Jose Museum of Art (2015); DeTong International Sculpture Biennial, Datong Shanxi, China (2013); and the Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, California (2012). Zhang’s work is in the collections of Academy of Art University, San Francisco; Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie; and the Virginia A. Groot Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois.  

Zhang’s sculpture Special Ambassador (2011) was recently on view at SJMA in the exhibition Character Studies: Clay from the Collection


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