'Moment for Ink': Exhibit spans 120 years of Chinese-style ink painting in America

Sunday, January 06, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, January 7, 2013 — The new exhibition “The Moment for Ink” represents an unprecedented collaboration by Bay Area Arts organizations to promote the awareness of the legacy of ink painting in America — both historical and contemporary. The exhibition opens February 23 and is co-organized by San Francisco State University and CCCArts of the Chinese Culture Foundation, in association with the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and Silicon Valley Asian Art Center. This project spans 120 years and features about 150 works by nearly 50 historical and contemporary artists who have made important, permanent impacts on ink painting during their careers in the United States.

Four venues showcase nearly 50 artists, rarely seen works by Chang Dai-chien, Chiura Obata

Professor Mark Johnson, director of the SF State Fine Arts Gallery, said most prominent ink artists have failed to gain proper recognition due to various factors, including the public’s lack of familiarity with Asian traditions and names. In the early 20th century, politics and racism were also important factors.

“Today, we can embrace their achievement and recognize their complicated identity that fell between the cracks of U.S. immigration laws, as ‘noncitizen Americans’ before naturalization of Asian-born immigrants was made possible during the mid-20th century,” Johnson said. “This early generation of artists also commonly suffered racist attacks including being beaten and spat upon in public, at the same time that they were celebrated for their refined artistry. This real inequity inherent in American society of that period is important to keep in mind as it renders the professional achievement of these individuals even more socially significant and noteworthy.”

SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery will show both historical and contemporary works. Early Japanese modernist Saburo Hasegawa is among the abstract highlights. His “Supreme Goodness is Like Water” painting seemingly deconstructs the characters of a famous line from Laozi’s most fundamental Taoist text, “Dao De Jing.” Chiura Obata’s masterful painting on silk “Storm Nearing Yosemite Government Center” of mountain ridges and floating bands of clouds communicates weather’s unpredictable energy in the High Country of the Sierras, a geography that first became associated with the artist after the inspiration of his extended art and backpacking trek in 1927. Chang Dai-chien’s splashed-ink perspectives on lotus flowers will be represented in several paintings. The Fine Arts Gallery will also show — for the first time ever in public — the studies for Tseng Yuho’s large-scale 1964 mural “Western Frontier.”

The Chinese Culture Center will show contemporary works by Nancy Chan, Toyin Odutola, Hong Zhang, Xiaoze Xie, Yueying Zhong and Jonathan Wallraven. These artists are chosen by CCCArts, which challenges perceptions and encourages risk taking in creating artistic innovations.

The Asian Art Museum and Silicon Valley Asian Art Center exhibitions will both focus on three different historical and contemporary artists. At the Asian Art Museum, Wang Yachen’s candid portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, created in 1967 when she studied with the artist after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, make a rare appearance. The museum will also feature works by Wang Chi-yuan and Chang Shu-chi. These three painters immigrated to the U.S. in the 1940s as a result of the second Sino-Japanese and the Chinese civil wars. The Silicon Valley Asian Art Center will showcase Bay Area masters who emigrated from China in 1965: Wang Chang-Chieh, Cheng Yet-por and James Liu.

“We hope our project helps build awareness of the vitality of Asian-inflected ink painting that has flourished in the United States for more than a century,” said Mabel Teng, executive director of the Chinese Culture Foundation. “It most certainly points to the centrality of cultural diversity in understanding the art of California and our nation.”

Exhibition curators are: Chinese Culture Foundation Artistic Director Abby Chen, Asian Art Museum Senior Research Fellow Joseph Z. Chang, Silicon Valley Asian Art Center Curator Jianhua Shu and Johnson.

“The Moment for Ink” is on display February 23 – March 23 at SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery. The public opening reception will take place February 23, 1 – 3pm, with a simultaneous opening at the Chinese Culture Foundation. The Silicon Valley Asian Art Center opens on Feb. 24 and the Asian Art Museum on February 26. Admission is free at all venues except the Asian Art Museum.

Educational programs include the public American premiere of “Chang Dai-chien in California,” a short documentary featuring restored and re-edited footage of the master painter in 1967, shot by art historian Michael Sullivan, at SF State on February 23 at 1pm. This event also includes a presentation by 96-year-old artist Paul Hau, whose work is featured at the SF State Fine Arts Gallery and was a friend of Dai-chien. Hau’s presentation will be in Mandarin with English translation. The Silicon Valley Asian Art Center will host two educational events: a panel discussion February 24 at 3pm with Diana Liu, Jasmine Cheng, Arthur Musen Kao and Jianhua Shu; and a lecture March 2 at 2:30pm on the modernization of ink painting. The Asian Art Museum will host a panel with Stanford history Professor Gordon Chang and Mills College art Professor Hung Liu on February 28 at 6pm.

Later this year “The Moment for Ink” will travel to the Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou, China. The University will publish a catalog, featuring essays by SF State Professors Charles Egan and Mark Johnson, SF State Fine Arts Gallery Manager Sharon E. Bliss, Abby Chen of the Chinese Culture Foundation, Joseph Z. Chang from the Asian Art Museum and Jianhua Shu from the Silicon Valley Asian Art Center.

This project is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Terra Foundation for American Art, as well as support from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Fund and SF State Instructionally Related Activities Fund.

More information about this event

Media Contact: 

Matt Itelson, 415-338-1442, matti@sfsu.edu, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, California, 94132

News Release