Zhang Zipiao: Swallow Whole now on view at LGDR art gallery

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Zhang Zipiao: Swallow Whole now on view at LGDR art gallery
Mother of Pearl 09, 2023. Oil con Canvas, 50 x 60 cm.

NEW YORK, NY.- LGDR has opened Swallow Whole, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Zhang Zipiao (b. 1993, Beijing, China; BFA 2015, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), whose processed-based canvases are noted by the artist’s rich, visceral palette and lush, painterly hand. The new work furthers Zipiao’s exploration of the human body and organic matter, but represents a thematic and technical departure brought on by her experience during the prolonged pandemic lockdown in Beijing.

Zipiao’s gore-like palettes and twisting forms capture a psychological unease inextricably tied to the perilous social conditions in which the body of work was first developed. Diverging from her practice’s earlier allusions to beauty, lust, and euphoria, lockdown led to the artist’s experimentation with darker themes and new approaches to process; notably, the artist now embarks without planned composition, approaching the canvas with raw emotion and energy. She continues to feature entangled lines and contorting forms that allude to the human body and organic matter, but which now also take on a shifting and destabilized perspective that has not previously been seen in her work.

Zipiao’s process-based practice eschews traditional stylistic categorization, instead following its own painterly logic and the artist’s subconscious. With her symbolism-imbued approach to abstraction—or abstraction-laced approach to figuration—the artist compellingly lingers in the ambiguity posed by her distinct visual language.

Alongside large-scale compositions (including a six-meter-wide triptych), Swallow Whole will feature several works whose scale represents Zipiao’s new interest in constraining the act of painting to the proportions of the human body. Calla Lily 10 (2023) portrays a close-up view of the distinctive flower—often representing rebirth and resurrection—in luminous tones of white tinged with lavender, pink, blue, and green. Surrounding and intermingled with the yellow innards of the flower, her dynamic swaths of color appear joined together in a manner that marry the artist’s own visual language with the inspiration she derives from the work of artists including Francis Bacon and Georgia O’Keeffe.

The triptych Mother of Pearl 04 (2022), which stretches six meters wide, is the largest work in the exhibition, and is presented with a subsequently developed diptych, Mother of Pearl 08 (2023). The latter painting, at four meters, demonstrates Zipiao’s prior Mother of Pearl compositions’ progression into the form of a deconstructed and cracked-open oyster, its flesh sumptuously rendered in pulsating ribbons of burgundy, pink, white, black, and midnight blue. The work is emblematic of Zipiao’s tendency to cleverly appropriate potent art-historical motifs, particularly symbols of nature such as a seashell, and translate them into her own pictorial language and psychological experience. Mother of Pearl, among other numbered series in the exhibition—Apple, Spider, Brain, Rose—allow broad exploration within the gentle framework of a descriptive artwork title and the firmly referential qualities of her visceral palette and painterly hand.

Beijing-based artist Zhang Zipiao creates multilayered compositions that find echoes in the anatomies of flora and fauna alike. In the rich hues of viscera, her voluptuous, writhing forms at once evoke meat, bodily fluids, ripe fruit, and the petals or pistils of flowers. Drawing on the work of Chaim Soutine, Francis Bacon, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jenny Saville, she paints abjection in sweeping gestural marks, however, her contrasting palettes and graphic linework distinctly reflect the influence of digital images and screens. Born in 1993 in Beijing, Zhang attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, where she was inspired by Bacon’s painting Figure with Meat (1954) housed at the school’s Modern Wing. She has mounted solo exhibitions at the Long Museum, Shanghai (2022); Salon 94, New York (2021); White Space Beijing (2020, 2018); Mine Project Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); Star Gallery, Beijing (2017); and Ying Space, Beijing (2015). Recently, her paintings have been included in group exhibitions at Pace, Palo Alto, California (2021) and Pearl Art Museum, Shanghai (2020), among others. Her work resides in the collections of the Long Museum, Shanghai, and HOW Museum, Wenzhou.

8 June – 28 July 2023

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