Zhang O

China 1976

Installation, Photography, Video Art, Painting

Zhang O
Zhang O
March 8, 2015

Zhang O is a Chinese artist based in New York. Although she is best known for her photographs depicting Chinese youth, Zhang also makes paintings, short films and installations.

Zhang was born in 1976 in the city of Guangzhou to English-translator parents who were forced, by the Chinese Cultural Revolution government, to move to the edge of Hunan Province, soon after Zhang’s birth. In the countryside Zhang was exposed to and learned the language of ethnic minority groups like the Miao and the Tujia. She remembers her childhood as ‘very peaceful and colorful’, and notes that this is where she established the foundation for her aesthetic preferences.

Zhang attended schools in both China and the United Kingdom. She was trained as an oil painter at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing before moving to London where she earned two MAs, the first in Fine Arts from Byam Shaw School of Art, and the second from the Royal College of Art in Photography.

For her earlier series titled Black Hair, Zhang photographed the wet hair of Asian women arranged in brush-like strokes on their backs, mimicking Chinese characters. The hair represents a significant and lasting genetic trait of Asian women and is therefore a symbol of survival, and Chinese writing is still a lasting tradition, yet both are out of context, the writing is not on paper and the woman is in a Western tub.

In her series Horizon, O Zhang photographs small Chinese girls as they crouch down and stare back at the camera. Dominating the frame and the spectator, Zhang’s little subjects offer oddly sinister and uncomprehending expressions. The West’s self-conscious fascination with contemporary China reverberates through Zhang’s portraits, which co-opt the brand-logo myth of childhood innocence and global harmony, making her endearing subjects alien, monstrous and threatening.

In O Zhang’s most recent series The World is Yours (But Also Ours) her images depict Chinese youth wearing American-style tee-shirts featuring ‘Chinglish’ text and appended with slogans in bold graphic Chinese – some taken from the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the writings of Mao Zedong while others are written by Zhang herself. The images are formatted after the traditional Maoist style propaganda posters where an image is bordered at the bottom with a white band with red text. In doing so the series visually captures conflicts in modern day Chinese culture, such as communist legacy vs. recent rapid economic development and traditional culture vs. western popular culture, thus encapsulating the identity crisis facing Chinese youth and modern China.

O Zhang has had solo exhibitions in Beijing, Istanbul, London, Manchester, Vancouver, Philadelphia and New York, among various other cities across the world. She was the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Artist Fellowship, Wilson Centre for Photography Fellowship and Fuji Film Awards, winner of RCA Photography Graduate Award, and nominated/short listed for numerous awards.

In 2004, Zhang moved to New York City where she has since lived and worked, making yearly returns to her native China.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2012Found in TranslationDeutsche Guggenheim Museum, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2012Contemporary Art from ChinaKatonah Museum of Art, New York, USGroup
2012Mie PortraitFreight and Volume Gallery, New York, USGroup
2012Postcard from the EdgeCheim & Read Gallery, New York, USGroup
2011O Zhang PhotographyOoi Botos Gallery, Hong Kong, ChinaSolo
2011Staging SelvesSakshi Gallery, Mumbar, IndiaGroup
2011Lowave - Human FramesKunst-im-Tunnel Museum, Dusseldorf, GermanyGroup
2011Piccadilly Revisited - Hong Kong Art FestivalHong Kong, ChinaGroup
2011Inter-MediateTCNJ Gallery The College of New Jersey, New Jersey, USGroup
2011Half the Sky - Women in the New Art of ChinaNew Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Philadelphia, USGroup
2010A Splendid Future For The PassedForever & Today, New York, USSolo
2010O Zhang - HorizonDirimart Gallery, Istanbul, TurkeySolo
2010The World is Yours (But Also Ours)The Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Philadelphia, USSolo
2010The Fokus Lodz BiennaleLodz, PolandGroup
2010Bumpy RideFotografia Festival, Rome, ItalyGroup
2010The Armory ShowDirimart Gallery, New York, USGroup
2010Playboy Redux: Contemporary Artists Interpret The Iconic Playboy BunnyThe Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USGroup
2010Piccadilly Revisited - short film screening Of Anna And DreamsRoyal Opera House, London, UKGroup
2010Global - National - The Order Of ChaosExit Art, New York, USGroup
2010State of the Dao - Chinese Contemporary ArtLehman College Art Gallery, New York, USGroup
2009Cutting The Blaze To New FrontiersQueen’s Museum, New York, USSolo
2009A Stream Bends For A Thousand LiAsian Song Society, New York, USSolo
2009Horizon (Sky)Vancouver Gallery, Vancouver, CanadaSolo
2009Mahjong - Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg CollectionPeabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, USGroup
2009China Now: The Edge of DesireMax Lang Gallery, New York, USGroup
2009Ingenious MethodologyChi Contemporary Fine Art Gallery, New York, USGroup
2009The BordersThe Amelie A.Wallace Gallery, Old Westbury, NY, USGroup
2009Rave ForumLi Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009798 Beijing BiennialBeijing Tokyo Art Project, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Constant StreamToday Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Eye WorldTriple Candy Gallery, New York, USGroup
2009SHcontemporary Art FairPekin Fine Art Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008Mahjong - Contemporary Chinese artists from the Sigg collectionMiro Museum, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2008Dare to Struggle Dare to Win: Emerging Artists from the Chinese DiasporaDeutsche Bank Gallery, New York, USGroup
2008The World is Yours (But Also Ours)CRG Gallery, New York, USSolo
2008The World is Yours (But Also Ours)Frieze Art Fair, CRG Gallery, London, UKSolo
2007Daddy & IPekin Fine Art Gallery, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2007Mahjong - Contemporary Chinese artists from the Sigg collectionMuseum der Moderne Salzburg, AustriaGroup
2007Shanghai Contemporary art fairCRG gallery, Shanghai Exhibition Center, ChinaGroup
2007Chinese Eroticism456 Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2007Surge798 Festival, Dashanzi, Beijing and Group
2007SurgeHe Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2007Dream PlaceA-Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2007You can’t Touch Dis: The New Asian ArtChelsea Center for the Arts, New York, USAGroup
2007Rejected CollectionKe Center for Contemporary Arts, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006Mahjong - Contemporary Chinese from the Sigg CollectionKunsthalle Museum, Hamburg, GermanyGroup
2006MoCA Shanghai Biennial - Entry Gate: Chinese Aesthetics of HeterogeneityMuseum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006Duolun Exhibition of Young ArtistsDuolun Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006Looking at the OtherISE Foundation, New York, USAGroup
2006Cantonese Artists in the Sigg CollectionKunstmuseum, Bern, SwitzerlandGroup
2006Purity and InnocenceNeuhoff Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2006Metropolis Rise: New Art from LondonTemporaryContemporary, Shanghai and Beijing, ChinaGroup
2006Art RotterdamDomobaal Gallery, Rotterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
2005My Little GirlIMT Gallery, London, UKSolo
2005HorizonChinese Art Center, Manchester, UKSolo
2005Preview BerlinDomobaal Gallery, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2005Chicago Contemporary Classic Art FairMuseum Work, Chicago, USGroup
2005It's a WrapPhoto Do Not Bend Gallery, Texas, USAGroup
2005Imaging a WorldOXO Tower Wharf barge house, London, UKGroup
2005CrimeArtist Network gallery, New York, USAGroup
2004On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Photography and VideoEthan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, USGroup
2004XS - an invitational exhibitionFa project Gallery, London, UKGroup
2004Who Am I456 Gallery, New York, USGroup
2004Standing On the EdgeHiscox Gallery, London,UKGroup
2004Best of Royal College of Art Degree ShowDavis Langdon Art Gallery, London, UKGroup
2004Summer ShowHoopers Gallery, London, UKGroup
2004The Progressive Development PlanThe Empire, London, UKGroup
2004Portobello Film FestivalWestbourne Studio and The Portobello Film Institute, London, UKGroup
2004EMERGEANDSEETrafo Kortars Muveszetek Haza, Budapest, HungaryGroup
2004EMERGEANDSEEKino International, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2004VectorL'Espace des Blancs Manteaux, Paris, FranceGroup
2003Essen Art FestivalFolkwong Museum, Essen, GermanyGroup
2003Chinese Art TodayMillennium Monument Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003DetourNeon Gallery, London, UKGroup
2003The Art of Contemporary Asian Women: If The Shoe FitsFisher Art Studio, Bard College, New York, USGroup
2003TimeshareOXO Tower Wharf barge house, London, UKGroup
2003Umea Video – Performance - Music FestivalUmea, Gallery 60, SwedenGroup
2003RCA Film Night291 Gallery, London, UKGroup
2003The Late Summer ShowSyllavethy Gallery, Alford, ScotlandGroup
2003Photography Open CompetitionAOP Gallery, London, UKGroup
2002VanishingEast73 Gallery, London, UKGroup
2002GeneratorL'Espace des Blancs Manteaux, Paris, FranceGroup
2002Emerge and See - short film screeningCurzon Soho Cinema, London, UKGroup
2002Orange - Dazed & Confused Big Break New Talent Awards ExhibitionGreat Eastern Hotel, London, UKGroup
2002Paris - San Francisco: One Exhibition Two SitesSomarts Gallery, San Francisco, USAGroup
2002Paris - San Francisco: One Exhibition Two SitesGlaz'Art, Paris, FranceGroup
200248 Student Neukoelln Art and Culture FestivalBerlin, GermanyGroup
2002Behind the Closed DoorSeven Worcester Terrace Gallery, Bath, UKGroup
2002Visual Art in Nunnery 2002Nunnery Gallery, London UKGroup
2001The Boston Drawing ProjectBernard Toal Gallery, Boston, USAGroup
2001Deal With ItWoman Made Gallery, Chicago, USAGroup
2001Synaesthesia Film NightChats Palace Art Center, London, UKGroup
2001Challenge The NailSalon des Arts, London, UKGroup
2001The 8th Annual ShowWoman Made Gallery, Chicago, USAGroup
2001EelThe Rhythm Factory, London, UKGroup
2000Skin and WordsArtists Space, Hauts de Cagnes, FranceGroup
2000Er-Chang AgeWan Fung Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2000Contemporary Photography from The People's Republic of ChinaCypress College and BC Space Gallery, Los Angeles, USAGroup
2000Winter SunshinePanorama Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1998Working GroupSyllavethy Gallery, Alford, Scotland, UKGroup
1998National Painting CompetitionTouring exhibition in ChinaGroup