Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink Symposium

Michelle Y. Loh

By Ka Yee Chan

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) presents Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink from April 24 to September 14. The exhibition features three Chinese contemporary artists: Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu. The three artists create reinterpretations of Chinese ink art with inspiration from Western practices.

Melissa Chiu

The Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink symposium took place on Sunday, April 27. The exhibition was guest curated by Michelle Y. Loh. Loh is a New York-based art consultant although she was born and raised in Shanghai. She studied Computer Graphics at the University of Pennsylvania, and specialized in organizing art fairs and group exhibitions.

This symposium was greatly organized. Visitors were able to meet all three of the artists from the Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink exhibition as well as other art professionals and professors. Other than the three artists, the panelists are Julia F. Andrews, Melissa Chiu, Jerome Cohen, Joan Lebold Cohen, Robert C. Morgan, John Rajchman, Kuiyi Shen, Richard Vine, Aileen June Wang, and Lilly Wei.

Julia F. Andrews

Discussion of “Let hundred Flowers Bloom: Contemporary Ink in the 21st Century” was led by Julia F. Andrews, Kuiyi Shen, Melissa Chiu and John Rajchman. Andrews is a specialist in Chinese art and was the first American art historian to conduct dissertation research in China after formal establishment of U.S. and China relations in 1979.

Shen is a professor of Art History and Director of the Chinese Studies Program at University of California. He is currently doing research that focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese art and Sino-Japanese cultural exchange of the early 20th century.

Chiu is the Director of Asia Society Museum in New York and Senior Vice President for Global Arts and Cultural Programs for the Society’s 11 centers and affiliates in the U.S and Asia. She is also in charge of the exhibition program in New York and at the organization’s new cultural centers in Hong Kong and Houston.

Rajchman is a philosopher and a professor of Art History at Columbia University. He is currently a contributing editor at Artforum.

Following up with discussion, were Wei Jia and Robert C. Morgan. Jia is one of the artists in the exhibition. He was born in 1957 in Beijing. He studied at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He currently works and lives between New York and Beijing.

Morgan is a critic, writer, painter, art historian and lecturer who bases in New York. The discussion explores the diversity of “avant-garde ink” beyond Western movements, Pop Art and Expressionism.

The symposium also included “What is Asian, what is American?” by Lilly Wei and Aileen June Wang. Wei is an art critic, writer and independent curator who based in New York. She focuses on contemporary art.

Wang studied art history from Rutgers University and specialized in Renaissance art. She entered the field of art business as a client advisor. “What is Asian, what is American?” focuses on how it is currently very difficult to distinguish the nationality of the artist by viewing the artworks.

There are many Asian-American artists. Many of them are influenced by both Asian arts and American arts. Many artists prefer to be categorized by the subjects of art instead of nationality.

Qiu Deshu and Joan Lebold Cohen

This was followed by discussions of Zhang Hongtu, Richard Vine, Qiu Deshu and Joan Lebold Cohen. Hongtu is one of the artists of the exhibition. He was born into a Muslim family in China. He attended the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts in Beijing. He lived in the U.S. since 1982.

Vine is the managing editor of Art in America. He often writes about contemporary art and ideas. Deshu is the last of the three artists featured in the exhibition. He is originally from Shanghai. After he graduated from high school, he worked at a factory and then became an artist worker at Luwan District Cultural Palace.

Cohen is an art historian and photographer who specializes in Chinese Art and Film. She lived in Asia since 1961, which included China during the post-Cultural Revolution period. The discussions focused on the significance of the artworks of Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink.

Lastly, Jerome Cohen presented his discussion of “How Does Political Evolution and Artistic Revolution in China and America Shape the Development of Asian/American Art.” Cohen is a leading American expert on Chinese law and government. He has been a professor at NYU school of Law since 1990 and is co-director of its U.S.-Asian Law Institute.

The Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink symposium ended with a tour with the curator. It was an honor to meet all of the artists and professional panelists in person and listen to their thoughts. It is definite that everyone returned with a lot of knowledge about Chinese ink art and contemporary arts.

The Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink exhibition will be open till September 2014. If you are in New York, please stop by. For more information for its current and upcoming exhibitions please visit: http://www.mocanyc.org.

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