International award-winning Chinese-American painter and 1964 Kenyon alumnus, David Diao (b. 1943 Chengdu, China) retraces his childhood experience of Hong Kong during the years immediately following his family’s escape from Communist China and prior to immigrating to the U.S. Consistent through five decades of artistic engagement, Diao’s work exhibits a deep and personal commitment to the history of modernist painting and an abiding interest in the archive and how history is maintained. In these paintings, his interests converge in luxuriously sensitive surfaces that provide a foundation for the graphically represented memories of a young boy in a state of limbo. In the artist’s own words, this body of work: “focuses on the five odd years before emigrating from Hong Kong to the US in 1955. One memory is of my neighbor Li Lihua, the famous movie star, and her glamorous life downstairs in contrast to our refugee drabness. Maps to establish locale and emblems of institutions in my life became paintings. The internet is a wondrous source for images that supplant the lack of a private archive. But in the end what is a child’s world but home, school, church. In working on these paintings I realize that during the entire period there I was mostly waiting to grow up. Besides, America was beckoning.” (David Diao, Jan 10, 2017)
After graduating from Kenyon in 1964, Diao studied at the Cooper Union in NYC where he continues to live and work. Diao’s paintings are included in many major collections, including the Hirshhorn Museum, MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, SFMOMA, and others. In 2014, Diao’s work was featured in a solo show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and, in 2015, a large-scale comprehensive retrospective was organized by The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. This exhibition is dedicated to Kenyon professor emeritus Joseph Slate, Diao’s art teacher and mentor.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website