Zhang Huan's fragmented "Three Heads Six Arms" arrives in SF

The Asian Art Museum blogs the arrival of pieces of Zhang Huan's Three Heads Six Arms (2008), which the San Francisco Art Commission is dedicating next Wednesday as part of Shanghai San Francisco Sister City 30th Anniversary Celebration. Huang chose San Francisco for the world-premiere installation of the 15-ton, 26' x 59' x 32' copper work, which is being presented on the piazza across from City Hall.

The Asian's blogging of the fractured sculpture fits Huang's impulse with the work. From SFAC's description:

Three Heads Six Arms is part of a series of monumental works depicting the fragmented extremities of Buddhist statues. The series was inspired by Zhang’s discovery of religious sculptures that had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution for sale in a Tibetan market. He began the series in 2006 shortly after moving from New York City to Shanghai where he retired his performance art practice and embraced a more traditional approach to artistic creation. His recent work is characterized by a more overt relationship with traditional Chinese culture and Buddhist iconography. However, he continues to use the body as a primary vehicle for exploring existential questions and expressing emotions, and it is a common thematic thread through his various artworks.

The first sculptures in the Buddha series included nine large-scale copper fingers, which were based on remains he collected during his visit to Tibet. According to Zhang, “When I saw these fragments in Lhasa, a mysterious power impressed me. They’re embedded with historical and religious traces, just like the limbs of a human being.” The fingers of Buddhist deities are considered highly symbolic because they convey different spiritual meanings through various hand gestures, or mudras. Zhang continued the series with several even larger sculptures combining the legs, feet, hands and heads of Buddhist deities. The artist, having been deeply moved by the sight of the desecrated statues, believes that by recreating these fragments on a grand scale, he is able to alleviate the pain caused by their destruction.


“The shape of Three Heads Six Arms came from my correlation of it with the Chinese mythological character Nezha, inspiration came from Tibetan Buddhist sculptures. I replaced two of the three Buddha heads with human heads,” said Zhang. Among the sculpture’s three heads is a self-portrait of the artist...

Here's how it'll look when completed:
Top image via the Asian Art Museum San Francisco, bottom image via the San Francisco Art Commission.

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