Critics’ Picks

Wu Hao, Sway, 2009, oil on canvas, 35 x 35".

Taipei

Wu Hao

Metaphysical Art Gallery
7F, No 219. Sec1. Dunhua S. Road
May 18–June 30

This retrospective of work by Wu Hao—one of the founders of the postwar Taiwanese modernist art collective Ton Fan Art Group—provides a glimpse into the variety of styles that the esteemed painter has employed over his five-decade career. The subjects of Wu’s figurative canvases tend to have a paper doll–like character, their usually female forms sometimes adopting slanted postures beyond the range of realistic human movement. The women’s vividly printed costumes and makeup in Youth, 1994, Clown, 1993, and Sway, 2009—which could be interpreted as depicting many people dancing side by side or various studies of the same woman—reflect the artist’s focus on the ornamentation of figures. Wu’s animal paintings are expressive, as in the vaguely comical expression of the cat interrupted from slumber, both highly attentive to and perplexed by its surroundings, in Suddenly Awake from A Good Dream, 2004.

Wu’s woodcuts flaunt the contrasts between the sharp geometric edges of traditional Taiwanese homes and the contours of nature. In Old House in the Reed Field, 1975, a red-brick abode rises out of a crosshatched wheat field and is flanked symmetrically by two hills. As a key figure in both the modernist and nativist art movements in Taiwan—movements otherwise at odds with each other—Wu saw his woodcuts as an attempt to synthesize what he perceived as distinctly Western and Asian styles, likely drawing influence from Chinese woodcuts from the Republican period. His still lifes from the 1990s through the 2010s compress three-dimensional objects such as fruit and flora into the patterned tablecloths on which they are displayed, demonstrating Wu’s strongest gift: the infusion of disparate elements into an abstract unity.