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Xi Zhang – IMAGINE:
In a time when conflict and contradiction are digitally-enhanced experiences for all to navigate, is it possible to genuinely put ourselves in another’s shoes? Chinese born artist Xi Zhang has been pursuing this question over the last several years across “Metallic Leaf Garden,” his most compassionate and extensive series of artworks to date. Plus Gallery, in conjunction with ATC DEN, will feature a distinct selection of the artist’s recent large-scale paintings in Denver’s RiNo District for the exhibition IMAGINE, a breathtaking, emotionally charged assemblage of images presented from Zhang’s distinct cultural vantage-point.
According to Zhang, “During the Vietnam war, John Lennon said he could write a romantic song and make a fortune, or he could write a thought provoking song that contributes to peace. By adopting Lennon’s approach about sending ideas, I aim to make aesthetically stimulating paintings that pull people in and hold them so as to embody the message.” Few artists in the Western Region explore such compelling realms with the depth and character that have long been trademarks of Zhang’s work. His hallucinatory landscapes & scenes hold us captive through their mixture of painterly motion and universal themes, tipping his hat equally to historic and contemporary ideals. Xi’s paintings are intended to awaken a viewer’s compassion, with the potential to lead to constructive communication and behavior.
In compositions such as “Dung Beetle II” and “Storm,” solitary figures struggle with the weight of the world or appear as if moving through an unholy vortex, the simplicity in each composition rendered with a massive cacophony of paint stabs and swirls, coalescing into a visual climax that is at once daunting and energizing. The lone figures in “Under the Bed” and “Snow Man” are more subtle, facing both natural and perhaps internal challenges that come in various guises. These are highly contemplative works, imbued with Zhang’s increasingly dextrous color palette that, to date, seems to have few boundaries.
While isolation is common amongst many of the works in IMAGINE, as well as the greater Metallic Leaf Garden series, it is by no means standard for Xi’s over-arching constructs. Similar nuances inhabit “Umbrellas,” where three tiny figures wrestle with a giant, overturned parasol, set against what could be either a mountainous backdrop or perhaps an oncoming hurricane. Zhang deepens the psychological mix in compositions such as “The Sunday Dusk,” and “The Flags,” where forestation envelopes micro figures, signposts and dwellings in a staggeringly dense mixture that embodies a panoply of dreamlike connections. Zhang’s color palette also starts to shift in these works, rendering a narrative that is undeniably rich and surreal.
Zhang’s aesthetic approach to painting has varied over the last decade, which can be attributed to the artist’s claim that everything preceding Metallic Leaf Garden was in preparation for a focused undertaking, honing his abilities to visualize both simple and complex scenarios to portray timeless themes. The works in IMAGINE are certainly visually arresting, inviting viewers to reflect on their own struggles and ultimately showing them that they are not alone with these issues. Zhang is opening up portals of beauty that require the acknowledgment of the mutual depths that we all face throughout history, regardless of a specific cultural or personal context.
IMAGINE is Zhang’s second solo exhibition in the United States in 2018, coming on the heels of his New York City debut with the venerable Marc Straus Gallery, where Zhang served as a resident artist in 2016. IMAGINE will be on view at ATC DEN from April 6th through June 2nd, 2018. A public reception for the opening of the exhibition is scheduled for Friday, April 6th from 6-9pm. ATC DEN is located at 3420 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205.