Wanxin Zhang’s series of Color Faces are an homage to Chinese culture. They recall colored masks worn during opera performances to represent a range of characters, personality traits, and backgrounds. As Zhang explains, “Different colors can distinguish goodness from evil, strength from serenity. And these operas are just like life — they show us history, politics, and the human condition.”
“Color Face” is also an intentional play on words that describes Zhang’s continuing experience of otherness within the country that has been his home for over thirty years. “These pieces seek to ask and discuss the same questions that will never really be answered. They are individual, they are puzzled, but they have hope, and they wear their own colors on their faces to pose the range of their humanness.”
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022
Made of highly textured, unrefined clay, this life-size figure of a man stands a little over six feet tall, with slumped shoulders and a face splattered with multicolored paint. His expression is inscrutable. His hair has been tied in a topknot, which droops to the right side of his head, as if beginning to fall. A red smear stains the man’s chin and mouth. Blue paint drips over his nose and deeply set eyes. A splash of yellow covers his forehead. The stripes seem to have been applied with a liquid glaze, as each color has dripped and mixed with the color below. As a result, these stripes merge and blend together.
The rest of the figure, from his neck to his feet, remains unpainted. Most of the figure is light beige, though splotches of tan and brown blemish his hands and knees. The surface of this sculpture is rough clay with cracks, crevices, and cuts. The bulky shape of the figure suggests the man may be wearing layers of clothes, or perhaps a suit of armor.
Warrior with Color Face
- overall_1: 77 3⁄4 in. × 23 in. × 21 1⁄4 in. (197.5 × 58.4 × 54 cm)
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of David and Pamela Hornik
- Mediums Description
- high-fired clay with glaze
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI