Selected works by Zhang Hongtu

Zhang Hongtu
Long Live Chairman Mao Series #29


Acrylic and quaker oats box

24.4 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm
Zhang Hontu grew up through both the Chinese Civil War and the ensuing Cultural Revolution before immigrating to New York in 1982. Zhang’s Long Live Chairman Mao Series #29 portrays a humorously critical blend of these ‘diametric’ cultures, transplanting the omni-present image of Zedong from his childhood into a parody western logo. Mao’s apparition on a box of Quaker Oats - all-American emblem of wholesome goodness - is nothing short of miraculous: The image is actually the real label, altered ever so slightly. The uncanny resemblance between communist leader and puritan farmer ironically confuses propaganda, religion, and ideology with the kitsch of advertising and cult of personality; like Elvis and Jesus, once you start looking Mao can be found everywhere.


Art in Review: Zhang Hongtu

By Holland Cotter

After moving from China to the United States in 1982, Zhang Hongtu produced mostly Pop-inflected work critical of the Cultural Revolution. His academic training, however, had involved a deep immersion in both classical Chinese and Western modernist landscape styles. And in recent years he has returned to them, not separately but in combination.

His recent landscapes at Goedhuis are based on the Chinese practice of emulation through the copying of old masters, but update the tradition. Here the medium is oil-on-canvas, not ink-and-brush. The landscape subjects are Chinese, the styles 19th-century European, with sources of each noted in the titles.

Thus, a signature image of foreground trees and distant hills by the great Yuan artist Ni Zan is rendered in the lush, light-flecked manner of late Monet. A view of receding mountains by the Ming painter and theoretican Dong Qichang is in the analytical pre-Cubist mode of Cézanne, while several landscapes by the Qing artist Shitao, a genuine original with a reputation as a nut, is in the simulated hand of van Gogh.

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