Chen Dongfan

Sanctuary
Jan 30 – May 1, 2020


Chen Dongfan: Sanctuary, marks the artist's first institutional solo exhibition in New York, and responds to the uncanny confluence of geopolitical circumstances that shaped the Yeh Art Gallery. Housed in a distinctly traditional Chinese architectural compound on the idyllic campus of a Catholic university, the venue was constructed through funds provided by the Chiang Kai-Shek administration in the 1970s and features such anachronistic juxtapositions as a larger-than-life statue of Confucius and wood panels from the Republic of China's 1964/65 World's Fair pavilion. For Chen, the “sanctuary” evokes the sacredness as well as the emotional and communal resonance of both a personal creative space or a memorial hall. The sanctuary is ultimately an experimental space where the unlikeliest encounters feel right at home.

Known for his vibrant, gestural, abstract paintings, Chen challenges himself in a radical departure from his previous work. Working only in monochrome, Chen has created a series of large-scale paintings that draw on parameters linked to his creative life: science fiction, Bach's fugues, figures of classical and urban legends, among other sources. The artist hopes to reconcile “a calligraphic energy with the destructive potency of graffiti.” Alongside this ensemble, the main Yeh Art Gallery space will also feature an interactive component, The Sanctuary Club: a blackboard on which Chen intends to sketch sporadic images and notes. Visitors are invited to respond to these markings and leave their own. During a collaborative performance with the Shanghai Restoration Project on February 22, Chen will blend all prior images on the board with new, spontaneous ones. The Art of Fugue, the largest painting in the gallery, will mirror the scale of a site-specific mural on the walkway leading towards the gallery’s building, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Done in exuberant hues and titled Sun Yat Sen Road in Color, the mural responds not only to the architectural and historical context of the site, but echoes one of Sun’s most famous couplets, in which colors convey specific metaphors of revolutionary force.

This exhibition is curated by Xin Wang.