Zhang Peng’s lost girls.
Art that is frightening or disturbing can provide a pleasing rush of adrenaline. Sometimes that is enough; I often find gallery-hopping to be akin to an old fashioned carnival sideshow in its entertainment value. But good art will use its power to frighten or disturb to make us think a little harder about things. China’s Zhang Peng makes good art.
Peng’s paintings of big-eyed, waifish little girls evoke all kinds of cultural baggage: stereotypical Asian kawai (cuteness), the never-discussed reality of childhood sexuality, the way that same sexuality is abused by adults, and the still unequal status of women in China all come to mind. None of which would really matter if the paintings were not utterly rich in their detailed accomplishment; fortunately for us, they are.
Zhang Peng is one of many young Chinese artists starting to break through the American gallery scene. More of their work can be found at Eli Klein Fine Art in New York; you should stop by if you’re in town.