Wang Keping

Wang Keping (b. 1949 in Beijing, China; active in France since 1984),  Untitled, late 20th century, ca. 1980s, wood, 18 ½ x 18 x 12 in (47 x 45.7 x 30.5 cm), Gift of Sara Stoker (Class of 1966) 2016.111

Wang Keping was born in Beijing in 1949 in the midst of the Communist regime, and began his artistic career as a member of the activist group of artists known as the Stars (Xing Xing), which included Ai Wei Wei. Despite his success in China, political censorship spurred Wang and his wife to move to France in 1984. Currently Wang Keping sculpts figural forms from wood in his studio outside of Paris.

He does not favor one particular type of wood, but uses materials that are readily available and allows the work to emerge from the log. The shape and form of the figure is informed and augmented by the physical shape of the branch; the natural protrusions and knots in the wood add character and features, such as the knot that forms a nose above the open mouth in the Davis’s sculpture. Wang carves the large forms with a chisel, then lets the sculpture sit so the wood can expand and contract. He sands it down and finishes each work with a torch, which blackens the wood and produces more cracks and texture.

Wang Keping is one of the most important contemporary Chinese artists. This is the first work by Keping to enter into the Davis collections, not only enhancing the Museum’s holdings of contemporary Chinese art, but also strengthening the collections of global contemporary art on display on the fifth floor of the newly reinstalled permanent collection galleries.