MOUNTAINVILLE< NY.- Storm King Art Center
has completed installation of Three Legged Buddha (2007), a colossal sculpture by the internationally celebrated Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The work, which stands nearly twenty-eight feet high and weighs more than twelve tons, is a generous gift from Zhang Huan and The Pace Gallery. The gift was announced by Storm King in spring 2010, at a gala marking the launch of Storm Kings fiftieth-anniversary season.
Three Legged Buddha has been installed in Storm Kings South Fields, in a grove of 64 sugar-maple trees that have been articulated into three distinct areas. There, near the eastern border of the sculpture park, it may be viewed in relation to neighboring works, including Magdalena Abakanowicz Sarcophagi in Glass Houses (1989).
Storm King Art Center President John P. Stern states, Storm King is delighted to provide a permanent home for Zhang Huans Three Legged Buddha. This grand, playful work, which is rich in symbolism and singular in style, adds a new international dimension to Storm Kings collection. We are deeply grateful to Zhang Huan and The Pace Gallery for the gift of this sculpture.
Storm King Director and Curator David R. Collens adds, The magnificent Three Legged Buddha, the first work by a Chinese artist in the Storm King collection, will engage viewers on many levels. We are delighted with its installation in the South Fields, and are pleased that Zhang Huan, who has been to Storm King on many occasions, is also pleased with its siting.
Three Legged Buddha
Zhang Huans monumental sculpture represents the bottom half of a sprawling, three-legged behemoth, one of whose feet rests on an eight-foot high human head that appears to be either emerging from or sinking into the earth. The sculpture is part of a series of monumental works inspired several years ago by the artists encounters, while traveling in Tibet, with remnants of Buddhist statuary that had been destroyed during Chinas Cultural Revolution (1966ca. 1971). Zhang began collecting such fragments, hoping to convert the relics into art. In keeping with Tibetan tradition, Three Legged Buddha, one of several Buddha sculptures the artist has created, is made of forged copper. Yet rather than gold-plating or otherwise coloring the copper, as custom would have it, Zhang left its violet hue untouched. He also left the weld marks in the work visible, believing that they both recall the language of painting and convey his belief that welding the copper was akin to the stitching of human skin after surgery.
Prior to its installation at Storm King, Three Legged Buddha was on view at the Royal Academy of Arts, Annenberg Courtyard, London (October 2007 January 2008), and at La Monnaie, Brussels (August September 2009). Of its new home at Storm King, Mr. Zhang says, I hope she completes her life-cycle there.
Born in Henan Province in 1965, Zhang Huan was forcibly relocated to his grandparents home in the countryside in the following year, due to the advent of the Cultural Revolution. From 1984 to 1988, he studied Chinese ink painting, drawing, oil painting, and art history at Henan University, following which he spent three years as an instructor at Zhengzhou College of Education. From 1991 to 1993, he studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing.
In 1994, Zhang created groundbreaking performances that represented a turning point in contemporary Chinese art. These included 12 Square Meters, in which the artist sat for an hour, covered in honey and fish oil, in a fly-infested public latrine, and 65 Kilograms, for which he was suspended above his studio while doctors siphoned his blood. For the 1997 performance To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond, forty-six migrant workers walked into a pond in order to increase its volume. A photograph of the performance, showing the artist, carrying a five-year old child on his shoulders, in the water with the other participants, was the cover image for the catalogue for the 1998 exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art, organized by the Asia Society and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, in New York.
Zhang moved to New York City in that same year, and, over the course of the next eight years created thirteen performances and presented his work in five solo exhibitions and more than sixty group shows throughout the United States. He moved back to China in 2006, settling in the Min Hang district of Shanghai. There, aided by some 100 assistants, he engages in an object-based practice.
In 2009, Zhang directed and designed sets for Handels opera Semele at the Royal Opera House of Belgium, in Brussels, where Three Legged Buddha sat adjacent to the outdoor stage. In May 2010, another of his Buddha works, the colossal Three Heads Six Arms (2008), was installed in the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza, where it is on loan.