Identification and Creation
Object Number
Zhang Huan, Chinese (born 1965)
Shanxi Door No. 32
Work Type
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Unique woodcut
116.33 x 199.07 cm (45 13/16 x 78 3/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Zhang Huan
  • inscription: l.r in pencil: Zhang Huan
[Pace Prints, New York, New York], sold; to Harvard Art Museum, September 2008.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund
© Courtesy of the Artist and Pace Editions, Inc.
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Printmaking in China has a long history and saw a surge in modern times as it became associated with a progressive cause. Zhang Huan has been a darling of contemporary Chinese art in the international art circles. Most media coverage has focused on his high-profile performance showcases. In fact, his woodblock prints, in my opinion, deserve more attention. This is one of a series entitled Memory Doors (2006).

As many of the rural Chinese households pulled down their old doors in exchange for the iron gates, Zhang collected a number of them from Shanxi in 2006. His assemblage of door slabs meshed with his long-time collection of old pictures. He then overlaid some of his old pictures over the surface of the door slabs and selectively carved areas into bas-relief. Prints were consequently produced from the carvings. The result is thoroughly refreshing. Zhang produced some of the most confounding compositions in contemporary Chinese art, at times surreal and oneiric, and always fiercely imaginative, which are very much in keeping with his long-time interest in transcendence, spirituality, and altered states of consciousness. Idiosyncratic and personal as these prints may appear, they have deep cultural resonances. They provide windows to ways of contemporary Chinese imagination and mental life. As befitting the print medium, these are the memory traces-hence, the title of the series, Memory Doors.

This piece exemplifies the Memory Door series. The artist apparently extemporized at the cue of a protuberance on the natural patterns on the door slab and made it into an image of a navel. Out of the "navel" extends the umbilical chords which metamorphose into plant motifs, resulting in a contorted baby-shaped tree branch and a full-grown tree trunk that thrusts into-or seemingly grows out of-the semblance of a skeletal body. Meanwhile, the "navel" also invites a perceptual reading of a volcano out-or into-which march a mass of figures.

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