Art In America

Zhang Dali

at Klein Sun Gallery,
525 W. 22nd St.

"Holiness" is not a term that crops up very often in contemporary art discourse. But that's exactly what Beijing-based Zhang Dali, one of the seminal avant-garde figures in post-Mao China, says he is aiming for in this mixed-medium show. White fiberglass casts of fully clothed migrant workers, interspersed with cast white doves, evoke the simultaneous hope and despair associated with Tiananmen Square. The figures recall Western Classicism, the doves biblical purity and transcendental enlightenment. Yet the works are more Cynical Realist than ideal. The postures of the migrants bespeak endurance, not heroism; the blue sky of the cyanotypes is pale and crinkled; in the paintings, torsos and bodies are disconnected; and the pervasive white hue, so pristine to Western eyes, is a ghostly, funereal color in China. Finally, let us not forget the nude, flesh-colored figures hanging upside down like so many slabs of meat in a stairwell beyond the second gallery.



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