New York

Zhang Huan

Asia Society | New York

Few serious artists today could call their work “a metaphor for the human condition.” Zhang Huan does—and with a straight face. He also states, “The body is my most basic language,” and claims, “I wanted to measure myself against insurmountable limits.” His recent retrospective, “Altered States”—the Asia Society’s first for a living artist—examined three career periods. In the early nineties, in the art enclave of post-Tiananmen Beijing (dubbed the “East Village” after another once-risky hot spot), Zhang specialized in simple, grueling performances, confronting absurd situations with a stoic physicality.

Often employing volunteers, he created works that presented collective effort as harmonious but pointless. In 1998, Zhang came to New York to participate in the Asia Society’s “Inside Out: New Chinese Art,” inaugurating the second phase of his practice. Meditative sacrifice

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