Zhang Dali

Zhang Dali
b. 1963, Harbin, Heilongjiang
Graffiti and performance artist, photographer
Zhang Dali graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design in 1987. He lived briefly in Beijing’s Dongcun (East Village) artist community, until he left for Bologna shortly before the political turmoil of 1989. In Italy he was exposed to Europe’s graffiti art. After experimenting with oil painting and many installations, he began spray painting the simple outline of a human head in profile on walls around Bologna. In 1995 he returned to a Beijing that was in the process of radical change as a result of government policies of urban modernization. Zhang promptly began employing his human-headed ‘tag’ as a form of dialogue with the city’s transformation. When the head appeared as the first and only form of graffiti in the city, it quickly became a scandal among the public and in the press which helped to extend the ‘dialogue’ concept. After distributing the image throughout the city, Zhang proceeded to photograph the heads, out of which he formed lightboxes. He also printed the images on canvas, thus returning the graffiti to the realm of fine art. Next, Zhang took his work into the sculptural realm when he orchestrated performance pieces in which hired construction workers chiselled the spray-painted heads out of the house walls still standing at Beijing’s many demolition sites. His graffiti was covered on international television by such agencies as Reuters (China) and Associated Press. His light-box works were exhibited in ‘Urbanity’ at the China Art Museum (Beijing, 1998), ‘Demolition and Dialogue’ at the Courtyard Gallery (Beijing, 1999), ‘Food for Thought’ at the Mu Art Foundation Eindhoven (Holland, 1999) and ‘Green Dog and Masters’ at the Chinese Contemporary Gallery in London.
(1999). Zhang Dali (exhibition catalogue). Beijing: Courtyard Gallery
Borysevicz, Mathieu (1999). ‘Zhang Dali’s Conversation with Beijing’. ART AsiaPacific 22:52–8.
Fathers, Frankie (1999) ‘Democracy Walls’. Asiaweek (April). Available at http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/99/0423/feat3.html
Yu, Zhong (1998). ‘Someone’s Graffiti on Ping’an Avenue’ Beijing Youth Daily (24 February).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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