New York

“Wu Guanzhong: Abstraction and Tradition”

Asia Society | New York
725 Park Avenue
April 25–August 5, 2012

Curated by Melissa Chiu

The radicalism of Wu Guanzhong (1919–2010) was befuddling: He both advocated and opposed formalism. In the 1980s, he resurrected formalism to depoliticize and wrest Chinese painting from its Maoist-era servitude to state ideology. His revisionism, however, went beyond repudiating overpoliticized art to challenge the very tradition of ink painting, with the shocking assertion (anathema to many) that “brush and ink come to naught!” The born-again formalism that Wu envisioned sought to liberate ink painting from its fetishism of ink-and-brush synergy and expand its repertoire to include pointillism, linearity, and planarity, among other qualities and techniques. Purists bemoan such abstraction within the medium, but like it or not, the energy unleashed by Wu is here to stay, as evidenced by Asia Society’s major tribute to the artist––a retrospective of roughly forty paintings and drawings spanning the three decades following his beginnings in the 1970s, which will be supplemented by a catalogue with multiple scholarly essays.