Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) to Open Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink

[New York, NY] February 20, 2014 - The Museum of Chinese in America is pleased to present a contemporary Chinese ink painting exhibition, Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink featuring the work of three notable artists Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia and Zhang Hongtu in the spring. The exhibition will be on view from April 24, 2014 through September 14, 2014.

The works of Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu are integral to the continuing story of Chinese ink and contemporary art in general. Since its ancient and medieval incarnations, ink has served as the primary medium of Chinese visual arts. As a pillar of Chinese culture, ink has long united China’s ‘three artistic perfections’: calligraphy, poetry and painting. For thousands of years in China, ink has been ubiquitous as an expressive medium, but by the mid-20th century, Chinese artists were interested in exploring Western art movements such as impressionism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, and post modernism. Through exploring the diametric poles of Chinese ink painting and the Western tradition of oil painting, the works of Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu took off in new directions.


Following their schooling during the Cultural Revolution in China, these three pioneering artists came to the United States in the 1980s seeking greater artistic freedom. Synthesizing ink painting techniques and influences from within the art scene in New York, each artist developed a unique visual vocabulary and technique that resisted easy categorization. Oil & Water will highlight significant works from these artists, spanning their mature careers from the 1980s to today.


“Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu came to America at a critical stage of their artistic journeys. They found creative communities here in New York and adapted to their new conditions in ways that clearly informed their work,” according to Herb Tam, the Museum’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions.

“Given the strong global interest in Chinese contemporary art today, the exhibition contributes to the conversation on the influence of contemporary art practices on the Chinese ink tradition and its place within the context of a historical paradigm. Oil & Water presents the transformation of a Chinese artistic tradition through the synthesizing of contrasting practices and artistic experimentation,” said Michelle Y. Loh, guest curator of Oil & Water.


In conjunction with the exhibition, MOCA will present a symposium on April 27. Combining scholarly presentations with open conversations between the artists and leading art historians, the symposium will unpack the critical importance of the ever-developing ink genre and the role of these artists in shaping contemporary art through their New York experiences.


During the run of the exhibition, MOCA will also offer a series of special weekend workshops entitled, Ink Experiments, for children ages 5-13. The workshops will provide opportunities for participants to explore techniques and creative ideas within the Chinese ink tradition. No previous art-making experience is necessary, and all materials are provided. For updates on the forthcoming program schedule, please check back on the Museum’s website.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, available in the Museum’s shop.


Artist and curator biographies available here. Please email MOCAPRESS for images.


Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink and the catalogue are supported by Carolyn Hsu Balcer and René Balcer, Karen Y. Wang, Rachel Sha, Marie and Harley Lippman, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. This exhibition and related programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (Museum Program), with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.