No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki, co-organized with Colby College Museum of Art, is the first-ever retrospective of the work of Zao Wou-Ki (1920–2013) in the United States. The exhibition aims to reintroduce American audiences to the paintings and works on paper of this great Chinese-French artist, who has not had a museum exhibition in the United States for nearly a half-century.
Considered one of the first superstar artists of the Chinese diaspora, Zao quickly took the art world by storm following his immigration to Paris in 1948. The artist’s art-historical significance lies in his singular adaption of the visual poetry of Chinese art within twentieth-century oil-painting idioms. In Zao’s hands, abstraction embraced both European modernism and Chinese metaphysical principles. No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki vividly demonstrates how Zao’s pioneering internationalist aesthetic marks him as a key figure in twentieth-century transculturalism.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki, presents a richly woven narrative of the artist’s life and work at the intersection of two cultures. Introducing Zao’s work to a North American audience, the authors make a substantial contribution to scholarship on transnational art movements in the 20th and 21st centuries. Their essays consider the reception of Zao’s work in the United States; his engagement with post-war abstraction; and his exploration of various artistic media. Zao blended Chinese calligraphic and ink painting aesthetics with European printmaking and abstract oil painting, becoming one of the earliest trans-cultural painters of the 20th century.