Wanxin Zhang

China is all about change. Whooshing past Japan's economic clout, filling most of the container ships at the Port of Seattle, that country seems to be outgrowing the burden of its past. This is not exactly the case with expatriate artist Wanxin Zhang, a San Francisco resident since 1992. He indirectly addresses his homeland and heritage with 19 large ceramic figures obviously inspired by the famed terracotta army entombed with Emperor Qin. Those 8,000 clay soldiers, now over two millennia old, caused a sensation when discovered in 1974, just as China was opening to the West (and two years before the death of Chairman Mao, which ended the Cultural Revolution). Zhang says his ceramic men, "represent a sense of confusion and a quest for freedom." They're mottled and irregular on the surface, their features more globbed-on than finely sculpted. Lettering in both English and Mandarin is inscribed on some of these guys; look carefully and you'll note the historical incongruities—eyeglasses, cell phones, neckties, and cameras. Not everyone is Chinese, either—there's an African-American tearing up in Inauguration Day, a nod to Obama. And though you could imagine them being excavated from the earth, imagine the surprise an archaeologist would register at the guy with a modern baby-carrier mounted on his stomach. With the kid wearing Mickey Mouse ears. BRIAN MILLER

Tuesdays-Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 23. Continues through Aug. 9, 2011

 
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