Gallery Hopping: Gang Zhao at Tilton Gallery

East and West collide on New York's Upper East Side.

Gang Zhao Building (2016). Photo: courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.

Currently on view at Tilton Gallery is a solo exhibition of new paintings by the Chinese artist Gang Zhao. Known for blending Eastern and Western influences in his semi-representational figurations and landscapes, Zhao seamlessly introduces sensibilities from both worlds into his paintings.

In fact, Beijing-born Zhao studied in Europe and the United States, living in the US for twenty years—and earning citizenship—before returning to China in 2006.

Tree (2016). Photo: courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.

Gang Zhao, Tree (2016). Photo: courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.

Zhao was a member of the controversial, avant-garde Stars Group that exhibited in Beijing in the 1970s, when the artist was just a teenager. The group is remembered, among other reasons, for its radical political gestures, as when it staged an influential albeit unsuccessful protest against the Communist Party of China’s control of the arts.

Upon leaving China, Zhao went on to study in Holland at the State Academy of Fine Art, Maastricht, and at Vassar and Bard Colleges in the US. This Western education and Eastern upbringing come together on Zhao’s canvasses, which depict a Western technical approach yet also feature distinctly Asian subject matter.

Gang Zhao Body of Woman (2016). Photo: courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.

Gang Zhao, Body of Woman (2016). Photo: courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.

The work is aesthetically striking and both art historically and intellectually rooted. Zhao often borrows influences from historical paintings and artifacts and reimagines them in a distinctly contemporary style.

“I make paintings about painting, in a way of being absent, but not in the way of mere abstraction,” Zhao explained in a statement. “I am an absentee, not present, not an active participant in what I am making. I remain empty of individual identity; the forms on my canvas are also empty of identity, constituted only by the process of their creation, abiding by the Buddhist principle of anatman.”

“Gang Zhao” runs at Tilton Gallery, New York, from September 13–October 22, 2016.

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