GOCA: Artist Xi Zhang explores what it is to be human

EXIT: Childtown will be on view at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery Thursday, April 6 – Sunday, July 1, 2023.

Beginning Thursday, April 6, the Galleries of Contemporary Art at UCCS (GOCA) are proud to present EXIT: Childtown by Xi Zhang. This solo exhibition affords an opportunity to experience the enormous evolution in the work of celebrated Chinese-born artist Xi Zhang. The works presented in the exhibition are an extensive and resonant slice, representing the single largest collection from within Zhang’s Metallic Leaf Garden series delivered to the public to date.

EXIT: Childtown will be on view at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery Thursday, April 6 – Sunday, July 1, 2023. The community is invited to engage with the artist and curators at the opening reception on Thursday, April 6 from 5-8 p.m. Xi Zhang will also host a free Visiting Artist and Critics Series lecture at 6 p.m. on the same evening.

EXIT: Childtown presents an immensely human selection of paintings by Xi Zhang; works that are spiritually absorbing and timeless. He builds a nonlinear narrative centered in allegory, forging a direction
he had long sought to realize through his rich imagination. Zhang maintains his fearless and experimental
tendencies, grounded by deep thought, that draw the viewer’s attention. Zhang explodes the sensibilities and successes of his early initiatives, opting instead for something more spiritually absorbing, immensely human and timeless; pulling the viewer in more deeply through a scale that parallels the ambitions of the work.

The influence of abstract expressionism, vast throughout his early career, is brought forward with stunning resilience, infiltrating every square inch of his figurative compositions, much like the work by the late, great Alice Neel. Zhang’s broad context and vivid imagination project reality into its most dreamlike form through a richness of color and composition that varies widely across the entire expanse of his “garden.” That he has dedicated his wide-ranging, attentive spirit to its ongoing cultivation and care is no surprise.

“Xi Zhang’s paintings explore what it is to be human—to grow and evolve, to navigate relationships, and, often, to struggle. Placing his protagonists amid dream-like landscapes, reality becomes tangled with the complicated nature of how we perceive ourselves, others, and our surroundings. It is in these psychologically driven, often ambiguous narratives that Zhang compassionately depicts universal moments of struggle. Here, he aims to uplift the viewer—to inspire hope and let us know that we are not alone in moments of turmoil and tribulation,” said Ivar Zeile, EXIT: Childtown Guest Curator and
Director of Plus Gallery, of the works in the exhibition.

“Currently, there seems to be an ongoing report of conflict and tragedy, as seen in the recent mass shootings and the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed while in protest against white nationalists,” said Zhang in 2020. “As an image-maker, how can I reduce such conflicts? I do not want to simply lecture or express my anger toward the institutions or people who instigate these tragedies. During the Vietnam war, John Lennon said he could write a romantic song and make a fortune, or he can write a thought-provoking song that contributes to peace. By adopting Lennon’s approach about sending ideas, I aim to make aesthetically stimulating paintings that pull people in and hold them so as to embody the message.”

Join GOCA, Ent Center for the Arts and the community in celebrating world-renowned artist Xi Zhang on
Thursday, April 6.

About Xi Zhang

Born in 1984 in Kaifeng, China, Xi Zhang completed his studies in painting at China’s Beijing Institute of Art and Design. He moved to the United States to further his artistic training at Denver, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from RMCAD in 2008, and that same year was recognized by then Denver Post art critic Kyle MacMillan as the Emerging Artist of the Year for his well-developed, surprisingly mature vision. Zhang continued from there with his masters’ studies in painting at the University of Colorado, Boulder, receiving his MFA from the institution in 2011.

Zhang’s work had notable shows including Song Zhuang Multimedia Art Exhibition at Song Zhuang Art
Museum in Beijing (2006), URRA in Argentina (Buenos Aires 2012), Ornaments at White House (2012),
and Biennale of America in U.S. (2013). His work was featured on media as CNN (2011), Art ltd Magazine
(2012), PBS (2013), NPR (2013), and Juxtapoz Magazine (2014). Zhang also was awarded Emerging Artist of Year (Denver Post 2008), The Pathmaker (Denver Post 2011), Top twelve artists under age 35 (Denver Post 2012), The John Moores Painting Prize (China, Finalist 2016), Gold Award Winner in painting from Art Forward Contest (Los Angeles 2016), Celeste Prize in Painting (Italy, Finalist 2017), and Grand Prize in Painting from See Me (New York 2020) Zhang is represented by PLUS Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery in Denver and Marc Straus Gallery in New York. xizhang.org

About Guest Curator Ivar Zeile

Ivar Zeile is an innovative arts leader, curator, and designer who has built multiple creative ventures into successful organizations. Zeile founded Denver Digerati in 2013, an entity specializing in digital motion-art applications for LED screens as a new and dynamic form of public art. Through the annual Supernova Digital Animation Festival, established in 2016, Zeile cultivated a singular, worldwide network of leading artists in the only annual forum focused exclusively on digital animation as art. In 2001, Zeile founded Plus Gallery, one of Denver, Colorado’s most prestigious and celebrated contemporary art programs. He has operated an independent, wide ranging freelance design practice that includes graphic design, trade show design, interior display, custom fabrication, film production, and video editing. Zeile has served as a member of the Denver Mayor’s Commission for Cultural Affairs and as a board member for a variety of art-related nonprofit groups based in Denver including RedLine, Platteforum, DAM Contemporaries, Denver Art Dealers Association, and others. ivarzeile.com

About the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art (GOCA)

GOCA is a regional hub of contemporary art, culture, and conversation. Independently producing exhibitions and programs through a collaborative approach with artists of national, international and regional significance, GOCA engages UCCS and the greater community in dialogue around contemporary culture. GOCA is a contemporary arts organization with two galleries – the flagship Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery at the Ent Center for the Arts, a satellite location opened in 2010 in the Plaza of the Rockies building in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs, and the Art WithOut Limits Public Sculpture Program on the grounds of the Ent Center and adjacent Pulpit Rock Open Space. For more information, visit entcenterforthearts.org/goca and gocadigital.org.

About the Ent Center for the Arts

This first-class arts facility, located on the University of Colorado Colorado Springs campus serves the community as a hub for the arts and an inspiration in academics. The vision for the facility was and is to foster a creative environment to house arts that will serve the Pikes Peak region, allowing artists to inspire and amplify one another rather than compete against one another. Art brings together diverse peoples and ideas in ways no other discipline can, and the Ent Center will be a pillar of the arts community within Colorado Springs. Learn more at entcenterforthearts.org.