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Wanxin Zhang: Warriors, Pit #5, Laramie 2006

February 4 - May 6, 2006

Larger than life-size and each one unique, Zhang' began creating figurative sculpture that was inspired by several visits to the archeological site in Xi'an, China. Warriors, Pit #5, Wyoming 2006 continues the series that he started in 1997.

To stand among Wanxin Zhang's larger than life ceramic figures is to stand between the past and the present. Imbued with an overpowering sense of the human spirit, each figure is unique. Their command lies not in the multiplicity but in their individuality; individuality that can be observed but not penetrated due to the signature eyeglasses that adorn these strange and beautiful sculptural works.

Zhang as a junior in college when he visited the terra cotta warriors and horses excavated in the four pits comprising the burial mound of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (246-210 BCE). More than 7,000 painted figures representing the emperor's army have been discovered. Some soldiers are in military formation, others are with horses and chariots, still others with weaponry. The experience had a profound effect on the young artist. "It was hard to believe that the huge number of warriors underground was made only to preserve the emperor's dignity in the afterlife. At the moment, I silently said to myself that someday, I will remake the warriors."

As noted in the exhibition title, Pit #5 has special significance. Zhang explains, "The pit's number is continued from the four excavated pits, but the context is completely different. The first four pits of Qin warriors were meant to be a political tactic—one that affects the whole of mankind—to show Qin's political power, but my Pit #5 is an artistic discovery by a contemporary artist. There are no hidden meanings or corrupted schemes. I am rebuilding these figures with the artistic language of soulfulness, spirituality, and personality, and allowing them to stand in museums and galleries."

Like their clay ancestors, Zhang's warriors convey universally known masculine societal roles: lover, father, uncle, friend, and hero. They are created in a process similar to the 2,000-year-old Qin soldiers. Made from clay, the figures are hand-built using molding and coil construction techniques. Once complete, the figures are cut horizontally into segments and fired. Glazes are applied, the segments are fired again, and reassembled into the greater than 6-foot high sculptures. Warriors, Pit #5, Wyoming 2006 is Wanxin Zhang's first solo museum exhibition.

Born in 1961 in Changchun, China, Zhang was educated in China at the Art School of Jilin and the Institute of Fine Art of LuXun. In the United States, he earned an MFA in Sculpture from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. He has exhibited primarily in California, teaches at the Academic of Art College, and is represented by Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami. In 2004, he was featured in Art Basel Miami Beach and became a recipient of the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant.

  • Funded in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Guthrie Family Foundation, PacifiCorp Foundation for Learning, the UW President's Advisory Council on Minority and Women's Affairs (PACMWA), the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum, and the Wyoming Arts Council through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming State Legislature.


Left: Wanxin Zhang (Chinese, b. 1961), Blue Uncle, 2004-2005, fired clay, glaze, and underglaze, 78 x 18 x 24 inches, lent by the artist

Center: Wanxin Zhang (Chinese, b. 1961), Lover, 2005, fired clay, glaze, and underglaze, 77 x 20 x 23 inches, lent by the artist

Right: Wanxin Zhang (Chinese, b. 1961), Trinoculars, 2005, fired clay, glaze, and underglaze, 84 x 22 x 26 inches, lent by the artist

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