Adjust font size:
Artist Zhang Dali has highlighted the rapid social changes sweeping through China with a provocative mix of graffiti, photography and sculpture.
Born in 1963 in Harbin, an industrial city in north east China, Zhang trained at Beijing's prestigious Central Academy of Art and Design. In 1989 he went to Italy, where he first painted the stylized head image that would prove to be the keystone of his most famous creation. Six years later, he returned to China and settled in Beijing.
"Dialogue," his defining work, is an ongoing piece of over 2,000 heads spray-painted across Beijing, predominantly on buildings marked for demolition. Later, Zhang returns to the heads and chisels out portions of them. These voids offer a new perspective on the changes sweeping through Beijing as its leaders bulldoze traditional neighborhoods to make room for modern apartments and shopping malls.
Throughout his career, Zhang has aimed to document the changes sweeping through Chinese social culture and highlight the effects of globalization on the fringes of, and most vulnerable groups in, society. His work has aimed to open a discussion with his compatriots about these issues.
"Dialogue" formed part of the groundbreaking "Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China" touring exhibition, where he said, "I believe that humans are the product of their environment. I am concerned about the changes in our living environment that have been imposed by money and power."
His other work has included portraits of migrant workers built from his "AK-47" tag and resin casts of their whole bodies, suspended upside down in groups. Most recently, his exhibition, "A Second History", featured copies of Mao-era doctored "official" photographs, juxtaposed with the unaltered originals. He said of this work, "People will naturally fix what they consider ugly, and touch those objects that are visible to them."
Zhang's work has been exhibited extensively worldwide, including solo exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Milan and London.