Rachel Zhang Receives 2024 Recharge New Surrealist Prize

Rachel Zhang Receives 2024 Recharge New Surrealist Prize
Image Detail: Rachel Zhang (Recharge New Surrealist Prize '24)

$7,000 award created for painters living in the U.S. and U.S. territories who are working in the New Surrealist style.

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) has announced New York, NY-based artist Rachel Zhang as the 2024 recipient of its Recharge New Surrealist Prize. The $7,000 award for painters who are working in the New Surrealist Style is supported by funding granted to NYFA by the Gu Family of The Recharge Foundation, a private non-profit organization that aims to promote cross-cultural craftsmanship preservation and create dialogues between antiques, high jewelry, fine arts, and technology. In addition to special projects and exhibitions, the foundation provides grants like the Recharge New Surrealist Prize to support contemporary artists, craftsmen, and designers.

Zhang was selected by an esteemed jury that included Julie Heffernan, painter and NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Painting ‘96 and ‘21; E.E. Jacks, contemporary art curator and painter; Janine Mileaf, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Arts Club of Chicago; and Hyewon Yi, SUNY Oldbury Assistant Professor and Amelie A. Wallace Gallery Director.

Figures are gathered around a table at the bowling alley, while in the background a group of bowling pins raise their arms to their chests as if pledging allegiance.
Image Detail: Rachel Zhang (Recharge New Surrealist Prize), “Pledging allegiance in the bowling alley,” 2023, oil on canvas, 68 x 56 in.

Through figurative narrative scenes, Zhang’s works explore the absurdities and existential anxieties surrounding questions of personal autonomy and social roles in a capitalist society, especially of gendered bodies. Her practice currently focuses on oil painting, which she sees as symbolic versions of contemporary genre paintings that take place in public spaces in a mythological city. 

The imagined figures and surreal narrative scenes in her paintings are her way of making sense of historical cycles around institutional violence as they surface in present-day spaces and actions, as well as immersing the viewer with questions about the future of the society we live in. Her perspective comes from her second-generation Chinese American female consciousness, with its complex relationship to visibility and othering. 

“We are thrilled to award Rachel Zhang with the 2024 Recharge New Surrealist Prize,” said Michael Royce, CEO, NYFA. “We are grateful to the Gu Family for supporting this award program and individual artists like Rachel. Rachel’s works are striking, and really resonate in the increasingly surreal world we find ourselves living in. We hope this award encourages her to keep creating, and look forward to what she does next,” he added.

A woman sits on a mattress at a motel hallway outside, as other figures are revealed along the length of the hallway and through an open door.
Image Detail: Rachel Zhang (Recharge New Surrealist Prize ’24), “To be kissed by a shallow death at a motel with endless rooms; her bodies are slow with lines of cartilage and corners,” 2023, oil on canvas, 56 x 68 in.

Zhang received a BFA degree from Cooper Union, where she was recognized with the Pietro and Alfrieda Montana Memorial Prize for Drawing and the Ruth Light Braun Merit Scholarship. Her solo exhibition, Situations, was on view at Fragment Gallery, NY, earlier this year. Zhang received a Zeta Orionis Fellowship from Vermont Studio Center, and has participated in exhibitions at Willow Art Space and Saatchi Gallery, London; Bellefonte Art Museum, HUB-Robeson Galleries, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, all in PA; and Cooper Union. She has also curated Clash in Nirvana and Scenes from a Metamorphosis at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, NY.

“I’m very grateful and honored to receive the Recharge New Surrealist Prize. Its support is meaningful to me in helping to further my practice in continuing to explore surreal narratives through painting,” said Zhang. 

The 2024 cycle is the final cycle of the Recharge New Surrealist Prize.

Find out about our additional awards and grants here and visit NYFA’s Opportunities page to learn about other opportunities in the arts. Sign up for our free bi-weekly newsletter NYFA News to receive announcements about future NYFA events and programs.

Amy Aronoff
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