Biography [Full Resume]



Conceptual and performance artist Michael Zheng was born and grew up in China. He studied computer science at the prestigious Tsinghua University in China and had worked as a computer software designer in Silicon Valley. Later he left his job to attend San Francisco Art Institute, where he studied with Paul Kos, Tony Labat and John Roloff. While at SFAI, he was awarded a fellowship from Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where he studied with Nary Ward and Xu Bing.

Michael’s general interest is in ontological explorations. He practices Ch’an Buddhism (禅宗) and has a regular practice of meditation and yoga. Ch’an Buddhism’s idea of the essence of things (性) vis-à-vis their appearances (相) underlies most of his work, which often responds to the context or situation. By reconstituting the formal and cultural elements of the situation, his work provides an indexical pointer to a possible new experience with the familiar. His works are characterized by a performative nature and are often shown in the form of site-specific interventions, drawings, photographs, video, and sculptural installations. Many of his works are infused with sincerity, absurdity and humor, and often engender a poetic feeling.

Michael has exhibited his work worldwide. His main exhibitions include:

He received artist residencies from the prestigious MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire in 2005 and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine in 2003. In 2021, he received a Special Jury's Award at the OSTEN Biennial of Drawing Skopje 2020 in N. Macedonia.  In 2005, 2007, and 2012 he was nominated for the SECA Award from San Francisco MOMA. He was acknowledged by the Artadia award in 2007. In 2008, he was nominated for the Bay Area Now 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He was nominated for the Eureka Fellowship by Fleishhacker Foundation in 2010. His intervention project with the Baltic Triennial was selected as No.2 of the best art shows by Pravda magazine in Lithuania, 2006 (No.1 was the Lithuanian entry to the Venice Biennale that year.)

His works have been reviewed in Sculpture Magazine, Yishu, Artweek, Shotgun Review, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, The BayCitizen, Portland Phoenix, BuddhistDoor, Neue Rheinische Zeitung and Rheinische Post in Germany, Lietuvos Zinios and Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania, and the Artists Magazine in Taiwan, among others. His debut solo in San Francisco, As the Butterfly Said to Chuang Tzu, won critical acclaim.