Apr 23 - Sep 05
by Michele Carlson
0-Viewpoint, Stella Zhang’s first solo exhibition in the Bay Area, is a multimedia collection of the artist’s exploration into form and femininity. Shown at the San Francisco’s Chinese Culture Center, the exhibition was a daring show for the CCC, whose curators are in a constant battle to challenge the boundaries of traditional and contemporary Chinese art. However, in the eyes of contemporary-art followers, the exhibition appears tame. This sort of tension mirrors the complexities that exist in Zhang’s work, creating a ripe field in which to view it.
Zhang’s work is visceral. Her series of sculptural monochromatic paintings have a feeling of urgency that borders on desperation. The desperation pervades the show. In 0-Viewpoint #3, five large canvases are covered with white fabric that is pulled, folded, stretched, and knotted over the frame. The fabric is built up over the ordinary frames, aggressively burying whatever might be underneath; the structure hints at the fraught uncertainty that also lies in the process of building something new over whatever may have come before.
In 0-Viewpoint #2, dozens of small bulbous forms dangle from the ceiling, suspended just above a nest of white fabric. The soft orbs are irregular; some are attached together in a way that suggests they may be growing out of each other—forming and blooming out of one another while on display. Each bulb is fiercely pierced and punctured with small wooden toothpicks—a jarring display of mutilation, as the forms feel so bodily.
The orbs are stabbed through so repetitively and purposefully that it creates a sensation of near violence. But Zhang manages to unerringly play with the precarious balance between delicacy and brutality, allowing the installations to question these tensions rather than become about them. While obvious references to female genitalia exist within the exhibition, the formal tensions in Zhang’s work speak to more-complex relationships with femininity than simply through the body. Her work is as much a poignant exploration into form and material as it is an investigation into other complex sociopolitical and personal agendas.