Portrait of History by The Zhou Brothers

TITLE: Portrait of History
ARTIST: ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou
DATE: 1997
DIMENSIONS: 8’4″ x 2′ x 2’6″
TYPE: sculpture

What is this strange figure? Give it some time. What does it look like to you? Does it change shape? Is this a person? A flower bud? A bird? The trunk of a tree perhaps?

Portrait of History (1997) by Chinese-American artists The Zhou Brothers, invites us to reconsider our linear approach to history by confronting us with a narrow bronze figure fixed in a state of becoming. To craft a portrait of history is to acknowledge that there are many ways to see it. To imply that there is more than one history is to suggest that history is not fixed, but continuously reshaped.

From the autonomous Chinese region of GuangXi, ShanZuo (b. 1952) and DaHuang Zhou (b. 1957) have worked out of their Chicago studio since the 1980s. “At the beginning, we knew it was interesting, but we didn’t know how special it was…” says DaHuang. “But more and more as we worked together, we realized the value of the collaboration. People think we have the same idea and bring harmony to it before coming to the canvas. That’s wrong. The value of the collaboration is that it opens up things that couldn’t happen any other way.”

Portrait of History shares its name with a series of four oil-on-paper portraits by the Zhou Brothers which are more traditional and less abstract.

To learn more about this artwork, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_History , which includes information created by Herron School of Art and Design and IUPUI Museum Studies faculty and students in 2009 as part of “A Survey of IUPUI Public Art.”