Yuyang Zhang, Thirst Trap, 2020(Portland, OR) Fuller Rosen Gallery is delighted to announce umm no, a solo show of new work by Portland-based artist Yuyang Zhang. umm no presents two distinct bodies of work by Zhang; a selection of digital collages and paintings created during quarantine in 2020-21. The gallery will also exhibit a textile banner designed by the artist in collaboration with Brittany Vega. Zhang’s collage work combines original photographs, recognizable Western pop culture imagery, and Chinese Communist Party propaganda. His newest series of paintings This is not Mandarin are composed of iPhone emojis as an entrypoint into “learning” a word in Mandarin. The resulting work allows space for new narratives surrounding the duality of Chinese and American culture that are witty, quirky, sometimes queer, and always relevant. umm no will run through May 27, 2021.
Follow this link to schedule a viewing appointment or visit during open gallery hours.
When COVID-19 began dominating the new cycles in the United States, Zhang’s attention had already been focused on the virus because it originated weeks before in his hometown of Wuhan, China. Zhang’s collages depict unique quarantine moments made in response to the non-stop bad news of 2020 and the ongoing global pandemic. The works are an amalgamation of various media including Chinese propaganda, original photographs, and screenshots of iPhone notifications and banners.
Yuyang Zhang, Stabbing Brain, 2020
The subjects of the collages are often plucked from their original context and placed into a contemporary American setting, not unlike Yuyang himself. Communist propaganda is repurposed to bridge past and present day China then seamlessly blended with American political and cultural iconography. The juxtaposition exposes sources of persistent stereotypes and prejudices people from Asia or with Asian heritage are burdened with globally. In Stabbing Brain, a young Chinese boy holds the long swab needed to administer a COVID test. In the background, a screengrab from iPhone audio controls plays Celine Dion’s “All By Myself,” referencing the self administered COVID home tests.
Zhang’s series of paintings This is not Mandarin are an examination of social media and the use of emojis in our online and digital communications. Taking the form of a flash card, each painting centers a single emoji accompanied by a word in Mandarin. Situated next to each painting is a placard whose text places the original painting in a different context. In Four Seasons, the virus emjoi’s face resembles the now viral image of Rudy Guiliani. The placard text reads: “sìjì 四季 n. four seasons Total Landscaping.” The clash of seemingly opposing elements offers moments of dark humor tinged with veiled criticism.
Yuyang Zhang, Four Seasons, 2020
While many of the elements in Yuyang’s work are ubiquitous to the life of an American millennial, they are also incredibly personal and deeply considerate of his identity as a queer, Chinese artist. The balance of humor and tragedy in umm no creates its own reality where there is space for reimagination, multiplicity, and healing. The racist and xenophobic rhetoric stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, as exemplified by former president Donad Trump referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus”, has only reified longstanding nationalisitic views in both the United States and China. Hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, along with Anti-Chinese sentiment from governmental leaders, continues to rise in the United States. Yuyang’s work offers humor and introspection as a means to cool a feverish climate.
Yuyang Zhang and Fuller Rosen Gallery will donate 50% of all sales from umm no to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), a statewide grassroots organization uniting Asians and Pacific Islanders to achieve social justice.
Yuyang Zhang (b. 1993 Wuhan, China, he/him) Yuyang Zhang is an interdisciplinary artist currently living in Portland, Oregon. His practice investigates topics related to car culture, personal and cultural identity, and social and political issues. Through a personal lens, Zhang's photographic works repaint mundane life into mesmerizing and otherworldly scenes. Through the fusion of Chinese propaganda posters and pop culture, his paintings and collages investigate contemporary issues in a humorous way.
Zhang holds a BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Purdue University and an MFA in Visual Studies from Pacific Northwest College of Art. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, including Portland, Oregon; Shenzhen, China; and Berlin, Germany. Zhang has been featured in multiple publications, including AINT-BAD, The Hand, and My view only, a monologue of mobile photography (只属于我的视界：手机摄影自白书).
umm no is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council