Eli Klein Fine Art is proud to present another important exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. This is Shen Shaomin’s New York debut and the first exhibition of Zhang Dali’s new series of paintings, Slogans. Shen Shaomin has exhibited extensively in Europe, Asia and Australia, including shows at The Metropolitan Museum in Manila (2006), The Guangdong Museum in China (2006), The Seoul Museum in Korea (2005) and a recent solo exhibition at The Today Art Museum in Beijing (2007). Zhang Dali has had worldwide exposure and has upcoming exhibitions at the new Saatchi Gallery for The Revolution Continues (Shen Shaomin is also participating in this significant exhibition of leading Chinese artists) and at the San Francisco MOMA for The Logan Collection. Both Shen Shaomin and Zhang Dali explore the complex situation of contemporary China through innovative projects that offer dynamic perspectives not only about their country, but more broadly, on the human condition. They are two of the most influential Chinese artists of their generation.
This exhibition includes work from two of Shen Shaomin’s projects, Experimental Fields and Bonsai. Experimental Fields explores ideas of religion, evolution and genetic engineering through creating fictitious creatures out of small animal bones that become a hybrid of plant and animal. For example, in Poppies, flowers are cast in a bonemeal that is made from ground skeletal fragments of various animals and glue, rabbit skulls become their bulbs and claws act as petals. Shen Shaomin explains that “today what we feel and know as Nature has become something artificial, technical, and sociological. Men are fabricating an artificial world of their own according to their personal interests.” This concept continues in his recent series, Bonsai, which was initiated through the artist’s interest in the practice of foot binding and the wider implications of power and control inherent in an artificial ideal beauty. In Bonsai, Shen Shaomin exposes the process of imposing beauty on bonsai by imprisoning the trees within cage-like structures and controlling their growth with the use of a variety of iron tools. The collector is invited to participate in these almost medical procedures which are meticulously outlined in text and diagrams in the accompanying book designed and written by the artist. Shen Shaomin studied the art of bonsai extensively and attended workshops in Anhui, Ningguo and Xuancheng. These works are living installations that become an allegory for society. According to Shen Shaomin, “The abuse of the human body and plants are phenomena with Chinese characteristics-to twist and reshape nature to suit our personal taste, and to turn nature into our plaything.”
Zhang Dali is in fact a close friend of Shen Shaomin and although as artists they diverge in many respects, ultimately they are both trying to understand society through art. Zhang Dali’s most recent series of paintings, Slogans, will be shown for the first time in this exhibition. In Slogans, Zhang Dali uses Chinese characters that spell out slogans taken from the government and advertisements, such as “Welcome to the Olympics” and “Support the Lead of the Communist Party.” Viewed from afar, these letters become portraits of migrant workers resulting in images that reveal the union between the slogans inundating Chinese society and its citizens. Zhang Dali’s work includes graffiti of the outlines of bald, anonymous heads which he spray painted throughout Beijing in the nineties. There are also plaster sculptures of nude, vulnerable migrant workers that often hang upside down from the ceiling, and casted bronze sculptures that reflect a shamanistic outlook in their union of humans and animals. Of great interest are Zhang Dali’s paintings on vinyl of portraits built up by the letters AK47—the Soviet machine gun used in the Tiananmen Square massacre. Slogans is another series that explores Zhang Dali’s concern with the isolation and anonymity of individuals populating the ever-changing country of China.