Zhang Yu was born in Beijing, China. She graduated from Beijing Science Technology College with a degree in Art Design in 1994, and continued her study at the Central Academy of Fine Art for another two years to refine her master program training in oil painting. After leaving the academy, she developed her own style and created works that reflect the political climate of the China at that period. Her subjects included political figure such as Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and a series on a new generation of empowered Chinese city girls, these paintings mirrored China as an emerging superpower. At the same time, Chinese contemporary art was being recognized on the international level for the first time.
In 1998, Yu relocated to the United States. She began to explore her art within a new culture and develop her vision through everyday life. A sense of self-identity began to emerge in her paintings. Subjects such as female figures, popular cultures and media permeated in her works. By the time she began her MFA studies at the City College of New York in 2007, her paintings matured and she established a unique style that challenges the notions of ideal beauty and self-identity.
Yu has received recognition such as the Koan J. Baysa Award in 2008. During her career, Yu has numerous solo and group shows in the United States, Japan and China. She has shown in Nasu-Kougen Museum, Japan; International Arts Festival ShangHai, China; and many galleries in New York City area including Gallery 456, Walter Wickiser Gallery, Hans Weiss (Ct), Thomas Erben Gallery, Artists Space, Exit Art, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts and White Box.
Zhang Yu currently lives and works in New York.