On Gold Mountain: Sculptures from the Sierra
Zhan Wang is among the most respected artists in China, having become world-renown for his stainless steel sculptures of “scholars' rocks,” the graceful, craggy boulders found in several provinces around China that seem to have been sculpted by natural forces into complex forms worthy of thoughtful contemplation–almost like mental or spiritual landscapes. Collecting these rocks from around China, Wang painstakingly pounds, bends, heats, and molds sections of stainless steel plate across the cloud-like topography of each rock, as if wrapping it in steel–in essence, applying a modern industrial skin to an ancient geologic body. After the steel has been shaped around the rock it is peeled away in sections, welded together as a single unit–a now-hollow duplicate of the rock–and polished to a flawless steel sheen, in some cases almost a mirror finish. The resulting play of light upon their surfaces has the effect of seeming to disembody and even liquefy the steel sculptures, as if they were luminous floating masses or shimmering topographies.
For his exhibition at the Asian Art Museum, Wang has selected rocks from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, alluding to the nineteenth-century Chinese immigrant experience of mining gold during the California gold rush. Both the actual rocks and their stainless steel versions will be exhibited. The artist will also create a topographic San Francisco cityscape–one of his “urban landscape” series– using steel rocks, mirrored surfaces, silverware, and stainless steel pots and pans.
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