Chen Zhen: A Tribute
During the last five years of his life, Chen Zhen expended his energies to create a body of work that poetically articulated his knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and Western avant-garde art. Born in Shanghai in 1955, Chen grew up during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. When China transitioned out of that era, he became interested in combining traditional Chinese philosophy (forbidden under Maoist rule) and Western practices as an alternative to the government's official cultural ideology. The resulting body of work held as a central theme the creation of harmony through difference, taking the human body, illness and medicine as metaphors, mixing cross-cultural social dynamics before multiculturalism and globalization had ever been articulated. Exploring the intricate and often paradoxical relationship between the material and the spiritual, the community and the individual, interior and exterior, Chen used sound and everyday materials such as candles, beds, chairs, and even chamber pots, linking the physical world to the spiritual, ritualistic one. The result was an aesthetic immersed in the traditional past but aligned with the present. This catalogue accompanies an exhibition held at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in tribute to the artist, who died from a rare medical condition known as autoimmune hemolytic anemia in 2000, in Paris, where he had emigrated as an art student in the mid-80s.