Opening: Saturday, October 2, 2010, 5-7 p.m.
(Los Angeles – August 2010) Fabien Fryns Fine Art in Los Angeles will present an exhibition of works by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi. The exhibition – consisting of 3 “Warhol” and 3 “Mao” portraits – is the artist’s, one of Chinese contemporary art’s brightest stars, first solo show on the West Coast. The exhibition opens on October 2, 2010, from 5 to 7p.m. and ends on December 4, 2010. This exhibition coincides with the launch of the new monograph “Zeng Fanzhi” published by Hatje Cantz which includes a foreword by Fabien Fryns and a text by Dr Richard Shiff.
The natural inclination with an exhibition like this is to make comparisons between Zeng Fanzhi and Warhol. In Warhol’s “Mao” prints (as in his “Marilyn Monroe” and his own self portrait prints), his candied repackaging of global pop icons not only serves to monumentalize his subjects—more importantly, it establishes and propagates brand Warhol itself. Not Andy Warhol as an individual or as an artist, but Warhol as a globally traded commodity.
Zeng Fanzhi’s “Mao” and “Warhol” portraits operate on the opposite end of the scale. Where Warhol’s work existed for the public arena and played heavily with motifs of mechanical reproduction, Zeng Fanzhi’s work is very much a private affair. There is a distinctly personal quality to each of the artist’s frenetic, gestural strokes. As with his earlier portraiture work and even the mask paintings for which the artist is most widely recognized, Zeng Fanzhi’s “Mao” and “Warhol” paintings possess an intimacy that the artist Andy Warhol never achieved—a one-on-one engagement between artist and subject, artwork and viewer. Painting with two or more brushes simultaneously, Zeng Fanzhi uses one brush to describe his subjects while he lets others meander across the canvas. The technique transforms each work into near abstraction to render his iconic subjects partially indiscernible, consequentially reapportioning their celebrity and re-humanizing their larger-than-life status.
Despite Zeng Fanzhi’s own similar stature in international art – in 2008 he set an auction record for Asian contemporary art with his "Mask Series 1996 No. 6" which sold for US $9.7 million, through Christie’s, Hong Kong – the artist seemingly seeks not to trade upon the currency of his success. Instead he looms as the proverbial outsider peering in. Within each painting is an attempt to initiate a cultural dialogue between the East and West, and within each painting is Zeng Fanzhi’s characteristic philosophical playfulness—one in which he expresses an interest in (and perhaps even a tacit reconciliation with) the foundations of his own ascendancy in contemporary art.
Zeng graduated in 1991 from Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. His early paintings are immediately recognizable by their signature expressionistic strokes, that lend provocative sensations of underlying violence and agony to his lavishly rendered canvases.
Upon moving to Beijing, he began his celebrated Mask series in 1994. Later he painted a series of portraits of friends and colleagues to reveal psychological human conditions and inner personalities.
The focus of Zeng Fanzhi’s works has shifted in recent years from depicting the people in a fast-changing society to exploring the mind landscapes of human beings, whereby their experience of existence in society is revealed in both philosophical and aesthetic terms.