O Zhang, Horizon (Sky) [detail], 2009, digital chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist

The Vancouver Art Gallery will launch its new outdoor exhibition space, Offsite, with a site-specific installation by Chinese artist O Zhang from July 20 to November 29, 2009. Offering a rotating program of innovative public art projects by local and international contemporary artists, the new exhibition space in the downtown core will allow artists to explore and respond to Vancouver’s unique urban environment. Located at the base of the Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver near the intersection of Georgia and Thurlow streets, Offsite will present new projects organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery every six months, funded by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program.

The first artwork to be presented at Offsite will be O Zhang’s major photographic installation Horizon (Sky). For this project, the artist returned to the rural area of her youth in central China to photograph the young village girls who live there. Posing in front of a camera for the first time, the children stare into the lens, returning the gaze of the viewer—unabashed, bold and powerful—while the vibrant colour of the blue sky behind them evokes thoughts of hope and possibility. Enlarged to monumental proportions, the images of the young girls, each photographed on a country hillside, are presented with a strength and individuality not commonly represented in popular media. Zhang’s images suggest a positive vision of the future of China and the role that women might play in its transformation, a role that is simultaneously embraced by the artist herself.

Offsite: O Zhang is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Daina Augaitis, chief curator/associate director. Offsite is funded by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program. The Gallery recognizes Ian Gillespie, president, Westbank Projects Inc., Ben Yeung, president, Peterson Investment Group and the residents at Shangri-La for their support of this project.