All This

When 5 Oct 2018 - 9 Nov 2018
Where NanHai Art-Gallery 500
500 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030
United States
Enquiry (650) 259-2100

Curated by Lilly Wei.

The six artists in this exhibition were all born in China, but their lives and practices have been impacted in numerous ways by their experiences outside its borders. All received their primary art education in China. Chen Qiang (based in Shanghai) and Du Jie (based in Beijing) have studied art only in their native country. Chen Ruobing went to Düsseldorf to study at the Kunstakademie (and has now lived and worked in that city for over 25 years). Liu Xuguang studied in Japan at Tokyo University (and lives in Beijing). Ma Shuqing attended the Kunstakademie in Munich (and travels back and forth between Paris and Beijing, a resident of France since 1994 and establishing a studio in Beijing in 2003). Shen Chen studied at Boston University and attended several art schools in New York (and has lived primarily in New York for nearly three decades). They all have an international profile and are mid-career painters.

They are also grouped together as non-objective abstractionists in a minimalist, reductive mode. No artist, however, has liked either designation. And in reality, they are not minimalists at all, deploying as they do a painter’s full formal arsenal. They also purposefully embrace the great legacies of centuries of Chinese painting, if only, in some cases, as a trace. The paintings seem to absorb that history as part of their substance, their DNA, a conceptual thickener, a different position from that of European and American minimalists.

As part of that aesthetic, none of these artists title their work, except for dates or numbers, resistant to undue influence and the circumscribing of the viewer’s response, resistant to labels, theories or other exegetical explications. Painting, for these six artists, is about materials and process. It is formal and optical, not representative or narrative. And it values the slow reveal. Yet none of them deny their illustrious heritage, a weighty legacy that is hard to ignore, like a very revered, very ancient elephant in the room. What they practice might be called double dipping, another thickener, as past touches the contemporary, mingling with the larger world. Legacies matter but so does the present.

The title “All This” points to the considered complexities of the paintings on view here, as well as to their differences, their uniqueness. It also points to the context that shaped these creations, looking beyond an East-West binary that has become much too simplistic and restrictive to be anything but the broadest kind of reference. Part of the pleasures offered by the works here are their similarities, their connections, and their idiosyncrasies, but part of it, and the most crucial part, is their singularity, their particularity.

Image courtesy of the organizer.

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