Featuring paintings, photographs, videos and sculptures by a selection of artists from the gallery’s programme, Between the Pages invokes the idea of the bookmark. This group of works points to the act of creating ‘aide-mémoires’ as a deeply human need to render the ephemeral concrete – a site to which the subject can always return. The selected works re-call quotidian moments or vast epochs that contemplate life’s transitory and fragile nature. Whether embodied by newsprint articles, archival photographs, mementos or meticulous charts, these works serve as invitations to newly orient ourselves in time. Between the Pages thus meditates on the potentials of an “active relationship to time, one where it becomes a boundless field of possibility”.
The starting point of my work has been a certain devotion to the lineage of abstraction as developed in high modernism. But unlike the formalist use of abstraction, I employ these forms to the specific tasks of troubling the history of modernism itself, and also my own personal history of over forty years as an artist. The earliest works from the late-1960s onward were referred to as the formalist abstraction of the postwar New York School. In the mid-1980s, with an assist from the debates around appropriation, I dove back into the European avant-garde of the 1910s and 1920s. This, and my observations of the art world, led me into analyzing the mechanism of how art history is written and value consigned. But this is done by painting as I am a painter and not anything else.
–David Diao As told to Foundation for Contemporary Arts, December 2014
Already in 1985, I had made a painting which deconstructed the ‘Red Blue Chair’ into its components, lying side by side. This was, in fact, a diagram found in a book on Rietveld. Many years later, I've come back to the same idea. In the Summer of 2020, I started breaking the ‘Red Blue Chair’ down into its parts and scattering the components. This made for a very dynamic composition which had echoes of Suprematism.
Doing this work allows me to be inventive with scale, placement and colour. For me, the most interesting thing about doing this is that the paintings, in a way, do not show you what the chair looks like. For this, one has to rely on one's collective cultural memory.
David Diao (born in 1943 in Chengdu, China) lives and works in New York. He studied at Kenyon College in Ohio and was on faculty at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program from 1970 to 2000. He also taught at The Cooper Union in New York. Since his first solo exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1969, Diao's acclaimed paintings that study Modernism have been widely exhibited.
Diao was the subject of a mid-career retrospective at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing in 2015. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Berlin Chair in Pieces’ at Postmasters, New York in 2022; ‘David Diao: Traces of Modernism’ at Gazelli Art House, London and ‘David Diao’ at ShangART, Singapore, both in 2021; ‘New Work’ at Office Baroque, Antwerp in 2020; ‘Studios and Sales’ at Postmasters, New York in 2019; ‘Kin’ at Tanya Leighton, Berlin, and ‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’ at ShanghART, Beijing, both in 2018.
He was awarded the Grants to Artists Award for Visual Arts by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York in 2015; the National Academy Award for Excellence in 2012; and the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada in 1973. A two-volume monograph on his career was compiled by Stéphane Mroczkowski and Alexandra Pignol, and published in 2020 and 2021 by mare & martin.
His work is held in esteemed public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris; Frac Bretagne, Rennes, France; Frac Bourgogne, Dijon, France; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei; Ontario Art Gallery, Toronto, among others.