David Diao, 2018
Delmonico books — Prestel
With contributions from Philip Tinari, Michael Corris, Pi Li, Sarah K. Rich, Felicia Chen, Kerry Doran
Born 1943, Chengdu, China. Lives and works in New York City.
Kin, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, ShangART, Beijing
David Diao: America Beckoning, Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
David Diao: Hong Kong Boyhood, Postmasters Gallery, New York
Ref : Barnett Newman, Office Baroque, Brussels
Walk Right In… (with Gwenn Thomas), Jeffrey Stark, New York
Nothing Will Be As Before, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Social Photography V, Carriage Trade, New York
Prelude / Subversion, Gallery Baton, Seoul
Three American Painters: David Diao, Sam Gilliam, Sal Sirugo, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
From his first widely lauded series on the constructivists: Little Suprematist Prisons, 1986 up to today, Diao has consistently redeployed the formal characteristics of the early modernists and pioneers of abstraction. In his latest investigation of the period, he references the Russian artist and designer El Lissitzky’s series “Proun." Lissizky broke with his constructivist colleagues over his use of three dimensional space and references to architecture – signaling a world of objects and relationships outside of art for art’s sake. Diao continues this theme by pairing Lissitzky’s curves with emblems and ciphers of those that followed Lissitzky but who preceded Diao, building a century-long narrative arc and associatively coupling formal elements into new compositions.
'Seal 2' pairs Lissitzky’s curves with the stamped Chinese characters roughly translating to, "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” These lines of verse lent their name to a short lived campaign of debate initiated by Mao Zedong in 1956 in which intellectuals, students and everyday citizens of China were encouraged to share their critiques of the communist regime. Seven years after he fled mainland China, and one year after he left Hong Kong for New York City, Diao did not witness this event himself. His reflection as an emigre is a somber one, as the climate of open discourse was quickly clamped down in 1957 and the years that followed. Many individuals who were critical of the Maoist government were subsequently interned at prison labour camps.