“Revolutionary Ink: The Paintings of Wu Guanzhong” at Asia Society

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Riverside Village, ink on rice paper

“Chinese architecture has a complete organic structure; it contains both sensibility and purpose.”
-Wu Guanzhong, painter

This statement, printed on a wall above one of Wu Guanzhong’s paintings at New York’s Asia Society, holds true not only for Chinese architecture, but also for his own art.  Working primarily with ink on rice paper, Guanzhong’s work is heavily focused on nature.  As his quote suggests, it is organic, and seems to flow naturally out of his pen or brush onto the paper.  His subjects are clear and beautifully rendered, even when abstract.  When his subjects are manmade, they still appear organic, as if they grew right out of the paper along with the natural landscape.

The exhibit on display at the Asia Society provides a small, yet encompassing portfolio of Guanzhong’s ink paintings.  The works range from the early 70s to late 90s in date, and show a clear progression from relative realism to abstraction.  His use of bold lines, bright and carefully placed colors, and the use of heavy wash to create perspective and blend characterize his style, and expand the notion of what ink painting is capable of.  The works on display are extraordinary.  They are fundamentally Chinese in their subjects and medium, yet entirely unique in style.

If you can manage the trek to the East Side, a visit to the Asia Society to view Guanzhong’s work is well worth your time.  These gorgeous painting are on loan from the Shanghai Museum of Art only until August 5th, so don’t miss out!  Admission is free with a current student CUID through the Arts Initiative’s Passport to New York program.

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