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Tradition and Identity in Ink Art

Angeles, TAG Member; and Jacqui, Teen Program Participant

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014

Zhang Huan (Chinese, born Anyang, 1965). Family Tree, 2001

Zhang Huan (Chinese, born Anyang, 1965). Family Tree, 2001. China. Nine chromogenic prints; Image (each): 21 in. x 16 1/2 in. (53.3 x 41.9 cm). Lent by The Walther Collection; Artwork © Zhang Huan. Photo: © Yale University Art Gallery

«In Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, we came across many pieces of artwork that exemplify the contrast between contemporary and traditional art. One of these pieces was Family Tree, a series of nine photographs in which the artist Zhang Huan's face gradually becomes covered in ink and traditional calligraphy.»

The text on the artist's face, written by three different people, consists of words, names, and stories related to his cultural heritage—words with personal meaning to him. The dots on his face in the first photograph represent moles and their connection to one's fate. In Chinese cultures, it is said that having moles in certain areas on the face symbolizes good luck and fortune.

By the last picture, Zhang Huan's face is completely covered in ink. Though the words on his face are about his character and fate, they ultimately obscure his entire identity. The piece seems to say that traditional words and ways of thinking can erase the things that make us individuals.

Related Link
Now at the Met: "Featured Catalogue—Interview with the Curator: Mike Hearn"

Department(s): Asian Art
Tag(s): Ink Art

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About the Authors

Angeles is a member of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group and was a participant in the 2013 3D Scanning and Printing Summer Intensive for teens aged 15 through 18.

Jacqui has participated in several teen programs at the Museum.

About this Blog

This blog, written by the Metropolitan Museum's Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and occasional guest authors, is a place for teens to talk about art at the Museum and related topics.