Selected works by Zhang Dali

Zhang Dali
Chinese Offspring

2003

Mixed media: resin mixed with fibreglass 15 life size cast figures

Average height 170 cm each
According to the artist, immigrant workers who have traveled from the rural areas all over China to earn a living in construction sites in Chinese cities, are the most important members of the Chinese race, who are shaping our physical reality. Yet, they are the faceless crowd who live at the bottom of our society. To cast them in resin is a way to recognize their existence and contribution as well as to capture a fast-changing point of time in the Chinese society. From 2003 to 2005, Zhang has portrayed 100 immigrant workers in life-size resin sculptures of various postures, with a designated number, the artist’s signature and the work’s title “Chinese Offspring” tattooed onto each of their bodies. They are often hung upside down, indicating the uncertainty of their life and their powerlessness in changing their own fates.
Zhang Dali
Chinese Offspring (Detail)

2003-2005

Mixed media: resin mixed with fibreglass 15 life size cast figures

Average height 170 cm each
Zhang Dali’s work actively engages with the rapidly changing environment in China. Zhang started working in portraiture as one of Beijing’s first graffiti artists, spraying and carving heads into the walls of the hundreds of buildings scheduled for destruction. Working across a wide variety of media - from urban art, to archiving photographs of Mao, and large scale installations - Zhang’s portraits document a contemporary social history of a culture in radical development and flux.


Chinese Offspring is one of Zhang’s best known works. Consisting of 15 cast resin figures suspended from the ceiling, each sculpture is a representation of a migrant construction worker, a vast underclass who contribute to the modernisation process at it most visible level. Since 2003, Zhang has made 100 of these effigies in tribute to their unsung heroism. Zhang’s work not only champions the individual plights of these transient labourers, but also records the one of the most important phenomena of new Chinese order: the growing schism between poverty and wealth. Zhang’s figures are hung by their feet to denote their vulnerability and economic entrapment. Each bears a unique tattoo issuing them with an edition number, the Chinese Offspring project title, and the artist’s signature of authentication - a normal practice in indexing art construed as a witty commentary on social engineering and population control
Zhang Dali
Chinese Offspring (Detail)

2003-2005

Mixed media: resin mixed with fibreglass 15 life size cast figures

Average height 170 cm each

Articles

dialogue: the graffiti art of 18K
(formerly known as Zhang Dali)

By Lyn Stuart

If you have been in Beijing long enough to get in a taxi, then you have seen his work: profiles spray-painted on condemned buildings, freeway bridges and neglected walls all over the capital. These scrawled profiles of a human head are the work of 18K (aka AK47) - the artist formerly known as Zhang Dali. You wouldn't notice them in a Western city because the simple drawings would be quickly sprayed over with graffiti done by thousands of other layabouts, vandals, artists and political groups.

But Beijing has almost no graffiti and the heads compete for space only with notices telling you not to park in front of gates or dump garbage, advertisements for venereal disease remedies and the ubiquitous Chinese character - chai, indicating that the building is about to be demolished. In fact, many of 18K's tags are intentionally placed right next to "chai" characters. Not only is graffiti painted onto walls that will soon be rubble unlikely to stir the police into action, 18K also has artistic reasons for associating his heads with condemned structures: the work is an attempt to engage in a dialogue with Beijing, a city where buildings come down faster than they did in wartime Berlin and London.

18K was born in Heilongjiang 36 years ago and came to Beijing after middle school to attend the prestigious Central Academy of Art and Design. He majored in traditional Chinese ink-and-brush painting but soon began producing abstract works and experimenting with different materials. In the late 1980s, 18K was the first artist to move to the village near Yuanmingyuan that later became a thriving colony of artists and bohemians until it was closed by Beijing authorities in the early 1990s. In 1988, 18K was one of several artists featured in independent filmmaker Wu Wenguang's Bumming in Beijing (Liulang Beijing).

The film popularized the notion of the Chinese artist as liumang - a slightly dangerous type of hipster who exists on the fringe of normal society and is frowned on by Communist cultural czars. Like many young people involved in the arts, 18K left Beijing in 1989. He went to Italy where he spent six years living in different cities and working as an artist. On his return to Beijing in 1993 he conceived of his long running graffiti project which he entitles Dialogue because the intention is that the graffiti along with photographs and articles that document and criticize it will together comprise a dialogue about the changing face of Beijing

Read the entire article here
Source: beijingscene.com