Culling together a body of work spread over the past 25 years of the artist’s practice, Blum & Poe’s 66th Street New York location is currently presenting a show by Zhu Jinshi, offering an intriguing and wide-ranging perspective on the artist’s historical development.
First discovering his penchant for painting as a factory worker during China’s Cultural Revolution, Zhu’s early work was definitive in its role rejecting the often rigid cultural agenda of the Chinese Communist Party during the 1970’s and 80’s, and offering a counterpoint to its state-approved art through his own brand of painterly abstraction. His paints clump and swell with each layer, alternating between blurry pools of sharp, mashed impasto and a loose, flowing interplay of layers. In each, the gestures are deliberate and resigned, rarely pausing in their straight paths across the canvas, or their sudden jabs in one direction or another.
Presented here are a series of works dating as far back as 1990, and offering a unique opportunity to view the artist’s evolution in the context of the past two and a half decades. Beginning well after the beginning of the artist’s career, the viewer catches Zhu in the midst of his creative peak, and can watch as the artist continues to pursue his particular aesthetic interests as he moves towards the present day. In some pieces, Zhu embraces “Liu Bai,” a traditional Chinese tenant of painting that embraces empty space as a formal element, allowing the contrast between mark and absence to create its own linguistic exchange, here emphasized by the aforementioned thickness of the artist’s own hand.
Zhu’s work here is expressly interested in notions of depth and space, perhaps seen most interestingly in his recent piece Green and Yellow (2010). Several dense layers of paint are applied sporadically directly atop each other, creating a tiered effect that emphasizes the work’s own materiality as much as it does the color contrast contained within. One is immediately struck by the work’s attempts at a verticality of sorts, rising quite considerably from the canvas ground as a result of his mark-making, while still playing closely against the flurries of color that backdrop sections of the work. This sense of balance, reposed yet carefully considered, underlines the artist’s impressive skill, and opens a strong dialogue with the more subdued earlier pieces utilizing similar techniques.
Positioning the artist’s more recent pieces in exchange with his earlier works, Zhu Jinshi’s exhibition is on view through February 20th.
— D. Creahan
Zhu Jinshi at Blum & Poe [Exhibition Site]