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Zhang Huan (Chinese, b.1965)
LOT ID: 81225
Foam, 1998

Chromogenic Print (C-print)
40 х 27 in. (101.6 x 68.58 cm.)
Edition of 15
Lot description
Zhang Huan was born in 1965, in Anyang, Henan Province, and studied at the Art Academy of Henan before graduating in 1991 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He currently divides his time between New York, Shanghai and Berlin. He came to the attention of the art world in 1993 when Ai Wei Wei wrote three books The White Book, The Gray Book and the Black Book, each immortalizing a different performance artist, one of whom was Zhang Huan. Two of his most famous early performances were The Anonymous Mountain Raised by a Meter, in 1995, where nine or ten naked bodies were stacked on top of one another on a hill and To Raise the Water Level in a Pond (1997). In this performance, a group of men stand up to their chests in water, looking into the camera. With this poetically absurd performance, Zhang Huan shows that collective action can actually have an effect.

In other works, Zhang Huan has subjected himself to extreme physical and mental ordeals. In 64 Kilograms (1994), he had himself suspended horizontally by chains, naked, face down, with a small opening in a vein. His blood dripped onto a hotplate of a stove, where it evaporated. Or he crouched for hours on a public toilet – naked, motionless, his body smeared with honey and fish oil – until he was covered in flies. This performance, 12 Square Meters (1994), could be interpreted as a condemnation of the deplorable cramped living conditions in the overpopulated cities.

In this particular series, Foam, Zhang lathers himself with soap and water, letting the foam act as a cleansing and purifying agent. He then ate pictures of his family members and ancestors in a symbolic act by which he incorporated the past into his present. While his art seeks to reconcile China’s brutal past with the present, his process takes place on a very personal level. Like his series Family Tree, in which he wrote the names of his ancestors all over his face, the Foam series also conveys this idea that the past is always with us and that we must actively come to terms with it.
Foam by Zhang Huan
  • Foam by Zhang Huan
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