David Diao (b. 1943, Chengdu) is a key figure in the history of conceptual painting during the second half of the twentieth century. This retrospective exhibition aims to elaborate and elucidate the thematic strands running through the last five decades of his oeuvre. Entering the New York art world in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Diao first engaged, in his early work, the complex position of painting in the aftermath of the Abstract Expressionists and the formalist critical debates that followed them. Surprisingly, in the early 1980s he turned from process-based abstraction to a more conceptual way of working that incorporated text, iconography, and narrative subject matter as a means of addressing themes including the complex and varied histories of Modernism, the legacies of utopian political movements, the racially inflected tensions of identity politics, and the geopolitical poignancy of his own family story. Diao’s unique aesthetic sensibility—manifest in his palette and surfaces as well as his historical and biographical interests—has undergirded a long career that is now attracting renewed interest from major institutions, critics, and curators around the world.
The artist’s first full-scale retrospective, “David Diao” includes 115 works borrowed from public and private collections in North America, Europe, and Asia. The exhibition seeks to present Diao’s work as a field of visual and conceptual adjacencies from which multivalent, unexpected connections can emerge. It spans all phases of Diao’s career, from his early abstractions to a suite of paintings about his refugee years in 1950s Hong Kong, completed especially for the exhibition. Further groupings are dedicated to Diao’s ongoing interest in the work and career of Barnett Newman; the complex and intertwined histories of Modernism and revolutionary politics in Europe, Russia, and the United States; the mutually determined relationship between identity politics, masculinity, and institutional critique as seen in works that explore his Chinese-American identity and his putative career shortcomings; and architecture and memory, particularly in relation to Diao’s lost childhood home, the Da Hen Li House in Chengdu.
About the exhibition
Dates: 2015.9.19 – 2015.11.15
Venue: Great Hall, UCCA
Courtesy of the artist and UCCA, for further information please visit http://ucca.org.cn/en.