Zeng Fanzhi- Art Scene (November 2010)
“Warhol and Mao” at Fabien Fryns Fine Art is the first West Coast solo show for Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi. While it may seem to draw comparison between pop art master Andy Warhol and Fanzhi it does the very opposite. An intimate body of work consisting of two “Warhol” and 3 “Mao” portraits, the expressive and gestural brush strokes of the artist contrast the invisible and mechanical hand of Warhol who created silkscreen portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, and political figures like Mao and thereby transforming cultural icons into commodities. When entering the gallery the viewer is greeted with Fanzhi’s portrait of Warhol, a work of oil and canvas with heavy swirling brush strokes that momentarily distort Warhol’s familiar visage. “Warhol” depicts the artist with his head cocked to one side without his famous wig and staring directly at the viewer with sunken eyes and a near frown. It seems that Fanzhi’s manipulation of heavy veils of paint is as calculated as Warhol’s method of silk-screening as it forces the viewer to consider the subject that lies beneath the paint. In “Mao” a large-scale canvas depicts a youthful Mao in uniform saluting with his right arm mid air and a scrawl of Chinese text next to him- he appears alert, determined, and stoic. Fanzhi’s juxtaposition of his “Warhol” and “Mao” paintings suggest that in Warhol’s works the commodification of the subjects were as important to Warhol as the image he maintained of himself. Fanzhi breaks down that persona by removing his eccentric quirks and conversely presents Mao as the Chinese understood him- a political dictator and not just a face on Warhol’s silk-screens.