Hai Zhang “Aged Innocence”

Miyako Yoshinaga

poster for Hai Zhang “Aged Innocence”
[Image: Near Zhengzhou "Henan Province, China" (2015) archival pigment print ©Hai Zhang]

This event has ended.

We are delighted to announce the opening of our fall exhibition Aged Innocence by Hai Zhang. This exciting new exhibition features Zhang’s recent photographic projects.

Between 2013 and 2017, Hai Zhang frequently returned to his homeland China on his job assignment as a photographer. By then, the economic prosperity in the big cities was visibly affecting the lives in small towns and remote areas. The unprecedented changes before his eyes as a cultural insider urged him to capture tens of thousands of black-and-white and color images that exemplify the historically and culturally complex locales and their inhabitants. The exhibition features a selection from this massive photo archive in the format of small prints and large collages.

Zhang’s framework for Aged Innocence demonstrates abundant cultural references while remaining true to his personal viewpoints. There is, for example, a pastoral scene of a horse on a riverbank in Zhengzhou and a glimpse of a cemented waterfront in Wuhan. These humble contemporary scenes represent the essential presences of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River respectively, the origins of the great civilizations that continue to draw inspiration for Chinese culture. The ethnic hegemony of Han is challenged by the gaze of a Hui minority boy Zhang met in a Xi’an mosque, whose reflection dissolves into a school of fish swimming in a vat. Further upstream from the Yellow River, Zhang visited the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia where he captured the explosive steam smoke emitted by one of its steel mills, a lifeline industry for the region’s population. In Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Zhang caught a group of teenagers playing in an out-of-season winery, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the nation’s thriving wine industry. His vernacular lens empathically illuminates each small corner of this vast country.

Zhang left China at the age of 24 to study architecture in the U.S. where he was later naturalized and raised his family. Zhang’s goal to collect, preserve, sort, and reconfigure images makes his work distinctive. Juxtaposing, layering, isolating, and grouping images generates intriguing cinematic narratives which serve to shed light on the aging of his subjects as well as the aging of his own memories about them. Zhang states: “Every time I return to China, I become increasingly aware of the passage of time between visits and my inability to keep pace with the country. It has become a human impulse to collect the images like souvenirs as a reminder of the experience. Yet the documentary images serve as a perfect metaphor for the fragmentary nature of memory and the desire to take ownership of it.”



from September 17, 2021 to December 11, 2021

Opening Reception on 2021-09-17 from 18:00 to 20:00


Hai Zhang

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