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Hilo Chen: Eyes
Hilo Chen: Eyes
December 1 – 31, 2021

Each Modern is pleased to announce “Hilo Chen: Eyes,” presenting precious works from the early photorealism stage that have never been shown by the New York-based Taiwanese artist Hilo Chen. In a decades-long career, Chen has moved from abstraction to figurative painting, producing works in the contexts of Taiwan, Paris, and New York, his present home. Most of the exhibiting works will be revealed to the public for the first time after more than 50 years.

With realistic painting, appreciation is often based on how precisely a work imitates and represents its real object sources. With this in mind, the discourse surrounding artists that produce works in a realistic turn is centered on the appearance of said works. In contrast, in Chen’s early paintings, we are able to discover a new means of approaching realism. What we see has the potential to become a symbol of his unique pursuit of aesthetics built around his lived experiences or personal relationships, both physical and psychological.

Before leaving Taiwan, Chen was certain he would devote himself to portraiture, having gradually relinquished his studies in abstraction. In the last Ton Fan Group exhibition in 1967, Chen showed only one painting, that of a grey, blue eye, which belonged to his French girlfriend. He later met another Taiwanese artist, Peng WanChih, in Paris and found, inextricably, that they were both eager to paint eyes or people with eyes. ”As an Easterner who has come to the West, it is my desire to know the world or even see through it. That is why my later realistic paintings are not about merely a person with a pair of eyes. They are more to do with how these eyes perceive the people and world around them” Chen said.

In the exhibition, many works were rediscovered by the artist in his studio during the pandemic. These are significant works that represent a transformative stage in Chen’s work; figures with unusual eyes resonate with Peng’s portraiture. Among them, a portrait of Chin Sung, a Taiwanese artist who lived in New York, also leads us to see, to understand, and to feel the histories and the traces of how these Taiwanese artists abroad expanded their own aesthetic and visual language at this integral time.

In the aftermath of a pandemic which has inhibited our contact with one another, our strong desire to connect to the world remains. Just like the ambiguous distance in Chen’s grand painting of a female standing on a hill, we desire for her to meet our gaze, to turn her head in our direction to perceive us as we are, as do so many of Chen’s other early works. “Hilo Chen: Eyes” offers an invaluable moment to contemplate, to look at those around us and to comprehend the artist once again.


Antone Könst: Casual Magic
March 27 – April 25, 2020 Opening reception: March 27, 2020 | 6 - 8 PM Each Modern is pleased to present “Antone Könst: Casual Magic” the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery, and in Asia. The New York-based artist uses painting, sculpture, and glyphic tablets to depict experiences in light, and the latent potential within everyday moments, with deep roots in modern art history and a passion for oriental philosophy. These works of mythic and folk images come to represent the power found in quotidian rituals. Through recollections of daily walks in a park, a ballad to the moon, or odes to faith, Könst shares with us the aspects of the banal that are in fact the most captivating. Könst’s approach begins with a trope. Compelled on some personal level, an image sticks with him; a juggler, a monkey, a goat. The familiar and at times cliché images, which are informed by archival sources and pop culture references, are altered and reimagined to suit the variety of mediums in Könst’s practice. A juggler becomes a repeated idea, pulling into its orbit the movements of the sun, the stillness of time, the birth of a child. A part of this exhibition is composed of plaster and resin tablets which straddle painting and object. The thick molded works are shaped, colored, carved on, and imbedded with a mélange of materials. Their pastoral subjects often call to mind frescos, though unlike the figurative paintings, these glyphic tablets possess abstract forms and qualities. Untitled, 2017, an earlier tablet composed of resin, plastic, cardboard, and wood features script-like forms across its surface. In the upper right side of the work cardboard shapes form a sun sitting on a horizon. This motif is transferred to painting in later works like Sunbather, 2020 and Moon Rising, from Assateague Island, 2019. Through these earlier glyphic works we are able to see the repetition of symbols. Shown alongside these wall hanging works are selection of sculptures. Könst’s sculptural works come from the same place conceptually as his painting practice, though allow for a directness and a more experimental mode of creation. These sculptural works are site specific and made uniquely for “Casual Magic”, and create a deeper sense of connection to the context of Taipei. "Casual Magic” also features a new genre of painting in Könst’s practice, the landscape. Inspired by a camping trip with his wife, and Monet’s immersive water lily paintings, these new landscapes are without the living creatures so often found in his works, and instead personify their tree trunk subjects. The prevalence of animals found in Könst’s work serves as a nod towards aspects of Asian art he draws from in his archival digging. This is most clear in the paintings Monkey, 2019 and Small Monkey, 2017-2018 which reference Mizaru, one of the Three Wise Monkeys from the Japanese pictorial maxim, embodying the proverbial principle "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Where the Western Art Canon utilized animal forms as signifiers of class and property, animals in Chinese and Japanese traditional art often reference parables, the mythological and the spiritual. Throughout “Casual Magic” figures are shown basking in the glow of some form of light. Whether it’s the moon hanging between two trees romantically, or a sunbather in a moment of beatific contentment and joy, a prevailing sense of affection can be read across the frozen moments Könst creates. Could this be anything but casual magic?
Xu Qu: Desert
May 6 – June 6, 2020 Opening reception: May 6, 2020 | 5 – 7 pm “In my mind the art market is like modern society: there is always an invisible hand controlling it.” - Xu Qu, Fondation Louis Vuitton interview, 2016 Each Modern is pleased to present Desert a new body of work by Chinese artist Xu Qu. Born in 1978 in the city of Nanjing, Xu is an important and highly regarded artist in the international art world, having exhibited in institutions and galleries such as the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Almine Rech, Sadie Coles HQ, Massimo De Carlo and other institutions. Xu Qu studied at the Nanjing Art Institute and earned his postgraduate degree at the Braunschweig University of Art in Germany in 2008. Since returning to China, he has developed an eclectic and richly varied practice that displays a contemplative focus for power relations. Like many from his cohort, his education abroad directed his practice towards an awareness of global exchange and displacement. This obsession has been expressed in many ways, illuminating power relations not only in the potential and capable sense, but also a kind of kinetic and physical power. Desert pulls its title from Eric Voegelin’s philosophical treatise “Order and History” which explores humankind’s relationship with order. “Desert” in this context relates to a primordial space outside society where prophets would be able to receive the transcendental words of God which were foundational in establishing a unified society. Both series in this exhibition address different aspects of this setting and transmission. In the “LSD” series, a new body of work made for Xu’s inaugural Taipei solo exhibition, stamp-like “blotter sheets” contemplate the means of attaining an interior transcendental space. In Xu’s “Conversion” series, a continuation of his “Currency Wars” paintings, the artist reexamines global currencies, though this time through the value relationships that are inherent in this kind of system. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a hallucinogenic drug that came to prominence across the world in the counter culture movements of the 1960s. With its strong hallucinogenic properties, it was thought of as the key to unlocking the mysteries of the mind and human consciousness through transcendental psychedelic experiences. In the “LSD” series, large canvases composed of winding labyrinthine patterns are presented across numerous tableaus comprising each work. Created with a decolorizing agent, the lines of these spirals are soft, nearly bleached from the acrylic paint on the canvas. These forms are less structural and more pattern-like, imbuing the works with tribal motifs while still tied the human and the universal. These patterns were formed with a variety of materials, like branches, brushes, and syringes. Each tableau is framed within its perforated borders, like a stamp. Xu emphasizes circulation, movement and the challenge of unlocking the transcendental. Taken in their totality, the works present a language that is obfuscated and mysterious. These strange rune-like abstract forms, with lines dissolved rather than painted, lend themselves to an enigmatic air, almost beyond the conventions of human understanding, perhaps even supernatural or divine. As a “tab” of LSD, Xu may be pointing towards movement through a labyrinth of the mind. In “LSD BBG-2”, 2019 - 2020, a human brain is rendered like a maze, alluding to an interior complexity or a puzzle. Similar to Xu’s Maze series, these works present complete topographies, not unlike a map. Like the prophets in their desert, a space removed from society in needed to hear a voice of transcendental order. In Xu’s new works, a kind of chaos is shown that must come before order. In the “Conversion” series, Xu presents abstract geometric compositions which come from zoomed-in views of various currencies. These works are a related to the artist’s “Currency Wars”, a series that examined money’s circulation in our modern world and the invisible forces that guide it. Xu’s new body of work identifies the specific value relationships that exist between these currencies. In the systems of the global economy, there is always a hierarchy and there is always a means of conversion. Each works features a raised set of numbers corresponding with its exchange rate with an unnamed currency. These digits also represent frozen moments in time, capturing the currencies in their fluctuations. In “10.7829”, 2020, a long string of numerals is embedded on to the surface of this magnified view, suggesting that this relationship is inherent, unseen, and inseparable in the systems through which they function. The formal characteristics of “LSD” and the “Conversion” series continue Xu's exploration of the hidden that guide the modern world. The multi-layered meaning of “LSD” may allude to a transcendental interior space that must be attained to find meaning and order. “Conversion” may represent the inequalities and dynamic relationships that exist across the disparate global currencies, each with their own value, though linked. Xu’s “Currency Wars” was a prophetic series that intuited the ongoing trade wars between global powers. In the global pandemic context of 2020, it seems Xu’s new body of work may prove to be a similar symbol, as humans across the world struggle to make sense of a new global chaos and attempt to imagine a new sense of order.
Zhao Gang 21st: Supports / ColorLumps as Anthropography of History
May 1 – August 23, 2020 Opening reception: May 1, 2020 | 5 PM Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts
 Curator: Huang ChienHung Organizer: Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts Co-organizer: Each Modern Special thanks to Long March Space, Tilton Gallery, TSO Gallery Comprised of recent works the exhibition presents Zhao’s history painting practice as an examination subjectivity and of the premise of History itself. Across two floors of the Kuandu Museum, with works ranging from small watercolor on paper to immersive large-scale oil on canvas, this collection of works proposes viewing the artist and his painting in a broad view which challenges our assumptions of history and the shaky ground which it undoubtedly has always stood on. This challenge extends beyond merely serving a missive debunking the fallacies wrought throughout Chinese cultural history, but also encompasses the ontology of painting itself. What is worth gleaning from this past? What is worth saving? And What does painting have left to offer? Zhao Gang’s paintings offer some sort of answer. Skeptical, coarse, and bawdy answers, though answers nonetheless. Born 1961, his family’s Manchu pedigree attracted considerable castigation during the Cultural Revolution. As the youngest member of the Stars Group, Zhao Gang contributed to China’s earliest modern art exhibitions from the late seventies to the mid-eighties. His activity in a cohort of non-institutionalized artists formed a community of the avant-garde, traveling on bicycles between apartment exhibitions across night-time Beijing. He left China, just before the Anti-Spiritual Pollution crackdowns, to study in the Netherlands in 1983 and later attended Vassar College in the United States. In New York he played a role in pulling not only a community of Chinese avant-garde artists together, but also created spaces for dialogues with African American artists, and even purchased and ran the art magazine Art Asia Pacific for a spell. He lived and worked in New York for over twenty Years before returning to Beijing in 2007, to find a new China, and a new topography of Chinese Contemporary Art. Zhao Gang the returnee found a Beijing he did not fully recognize. To engage with this new landscape, the artist continued what began in New York in the 90s, a practice towards the more personal, one that revolved around his specific identity, but that stretched back towards history to question the present, drawing from erotica, revolution, poetry, traditional ink painting, Chinese culture’s past. In this way, through the personal, Zhao depicts a new Chinese imaginary, explored through painting, about painting, and about himself. One such recurring topic is the often-unrecognized heterogeneity of China, or the non-Chinese within China. In the exhibition’s largest work China Party 2020, 2019, a panoply of figures makes up this party. A “verdant-robed girl,” a bearded Taoist, and generals and a Qin emperor gathered around a table project a colorful rainbow of a multifaceted Chinese culture. Upon more rigorous inspection, the figures are in fact all wearing the attire of non-Han Chinese, or non-Chinese altogether. Reframed in this context, and rendered with harsh and direct brush strokes, stripping the forms of their historical context and revealing an interior identity of shape and color, Zhao gives these non-Chinese, Chinese, a contemporary subjectivity through the inherited and the traditional; one that regards China from within and without. Comprising another facet of this subjectivity is a body of work from 2018 titled Diluted Retrospective, featuring 39 watercolors. The series frames Russia’s October Revolution in a context that includes Chinese history and Zhao himself while addressing identity through links between China, communist revolutions, and also Contemporary Art history. For Zhao, coming of age in China meant there was never one’s own Contemporary Art history. Instead what the artist offers is a mix of revolutionary warlords, intellectuals, and the legacy of Imperial China. Once again, through the medium of painting, Zhao Gang is able to shine a light on a precarious aspect of his world, through a retrospective turn. Intellectual, 2015 - 2017 is a work which is tied to one a body of work fixated on a certain group of Chinese intellectuals who took off to Europe, the US, and Japan, post May Fourth Movement to receive higher education. Returning to China, with hopes and dreams of building a better homeland, many of these would-be statesmen meet unenviable fates. The theme of the simultaneous outsider and insider is no doubt ever present in Zhao’s works as he’s framed it. He is the contemporary analog of these men though in spite of this, has a different destiny. Importantly this exhibition also draws our attention to deeper displacement with time, shifting from history and sociocultural anthropology, to biological anthropology. Monkey King, 2016 touches upon the very origin of homo-sapiens, that is mankind’s prehistoric antecedents. Betraying his tendency towards parody, Zhao shows us a sincere creature with potential and intelligence. A figure about to relinquish its throne in the kingdom of animals, and begin the heavy lifting of human civilization. Bright eyes looking out from the canvas, perhaps forward towards the march of human history to come, suggest a range of concern that goes even deeper for Zhao. If traditional Chinese philosophers looked towards the ancients for guidance, Zhao’s aim may be even further back. Whether these portraits represent aspects of the Zhao’s identity or narrative are no longer in question. Almost all of the works are imbued with some piece of his own historical fate. What Intellectual, 2015 - 2017 and Monkey King, 2016 offer us is representation of this spectrum. The former is the amalgam of cultures, the latter predates culture. One figure suffers a cruel fate at the hands of his own people, despite his learning, the other is removed from this strife because it sits outside the troubles of mankind. Zhao makes clear his position on his circumstance, as Manchu, artist, emigrant, returnee, insider and outsider. History has shown, good intentions and intellect do not exclude you from man’s barbarism. Another cycle repositions Zhao through court culture and the landscapes from literati gardens. In Coronavirus 3, 2020 and Coronavirus 4, 2020, objects appear from edges of the canvas, cutting off, and de-contextualizing these traditional objects of value. A statue of a buddha becomes an emptied vessel of Chinese culture, both removed from the world that created it, and the people that comprise this culture. Zhao picks and chooses these aspects, not discarding, though not accepting at face value either. This technique draws parallels with his Suzhou Museum solo exhibition “Paramour’s Garden” from 2015 and its watercolors of floating figures and architecture, though these oil on canvas works are grounded, and enclosed in interiors, there still a sense of the unhinged. Landscapes and vistas of China can also be seen through eyes of outsiders, not unlike Zhao. Map of China, 2015 takes its inspiration from the cover of German traveler and scientist Ferdinand von Richthofen’s 1885 book. A stone stele stands before rolling hills and the Great Wall. Here the foreigner’s imaginary is invoked; a western depiction of an essentialist view of China is re-appropriated by Zhao, and reworked, but with his assimilated western subjectivity. A mirror is held up to a mirror. The contemporary is never too far away, and as such neither is history or the historical events that will dot future annals. In fact, the Coronavirus series is comprised of 4 works done in Beijing during the height of the COVID-19 viral epidemic across China. In this context, Zhao’s practice persisted. In the first of the series, Coronavirus 1, 2020, a small dark plant in front of a sill, with a window pane divided into sections, reframes the scene into two pieces. Looking out through these panes, a near-void of white freezes the world in place. Cascading sheets of snow blanket roof tops towards a horizon of grey and dead trees. The red flowers of the houseplant pull us back indoors and out of the cold. Taken with its historical context, Zhao puts the very real aspect of separation, isolation, endurance and tenacity of the spirit born in the face of a contemporary crisis into this historical medium and subject. He is an outsider of the fiction that we call a unified Chinese culture. Zhao sees this within these inherited images, trickling down to our present. Filtered through the artist, and through the baggage of painting and painter, these things can take on new meanings, enforce new myths, and posit new histories. No other artist, Chinese, American, or otherwise, has had the singular frame of mind to share such a vision.