Exhibitions/ Art Object
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Family Tree

Artist:
Zhang Huan (Chinese, born Anyang, 1965)
Date:
2001
Culture:
China
Medium:
Nine chromogenic prints
Dimensions:
Image (each): 21 in. × 16 1/2 in. (53.3 × 41.9 cm)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Lent by The Walther Collection
Rights and Reproduction:
Artwork © Zhang Huan. Photo: © Yale University Art Gallery
Not on view
With Family Tree, made less than two years after his move to New York, Zhang offered his face as a surface on which words, names, and stories connected to his cultural heritage are, literally, written. This performance piece is documented in nine photographs that record the gradual obscuring of Zhang’s face with inked words until it is completely blackened. Most words derive from the ancient Chinese art of physiognomy, which seeks to map personality traits and divine the future based on one’s facial features. But rather than elucidating Zhang’s character and fate, these traditional divinatory marks ultimately obscure his identity beneath a dense layer of culturally conditioned references.