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In the annals of the Denver art world, the 2011-2012 season will go down as the year of Clyfford Still. The Clyfford Still Museum opened in November, and many museums and galleries presented shows highlighting the artist’s influence or abstraction in general in order to honor Still’s signature approach.

But in the past few months, a strong countercurrent of exhibits featuring representational imagery — in particular depictions of the figure — has appeared. An example is the small but strong 11 Ceremonies: New Paintings by Xi Zhang at Plus Gallery. The show comprises recent paintings by this young Colorado artist who originally hails from China. Zhang studied at theRocky Mountain College of Art + Design, where he received his BFA in 2008, and then at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he earned an MFA. With contemporary Chinese art being one of the hottest topics of the early 21st century, it’s great to have a hometown player like Zhang in the mix.

The paintings in 11 Ceremonies have an ambitious quality from several perspectives, including technique, subject matter and, most important, a kind of visual charisma. This final characteristic makes Zhang’s works seem more monumental than they actually are — though they are pretty large. According to the artist’s written statement, the paintings have to do with Zhang’s interest in social media, but this is hard to see. That’s because they are so apparently hand-wrought, and thus seem to be worlds away from the computer and the Internet. So while social media may be a source, it’s possible to ignore this aspect and to focus instead on Zhang’s accomplished sense for composition and his striking expertise in putting paint to canvas.

 

Read the full article on The Westword