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'From Two Arises Three,' Korea Day and more at the Asian Art Museum

Sunday is KoreaDay at the Asian Art Museum and it's F R E E. Come and celebrate Korean culture through a daylong extravaganza for all ages.

After Huang Gongwang 1, 2009, by Michael Cherney (American, b. 1969) and Arnold Chang (American, b. 1954)
@Asian Art Museum/Lent from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang

The 2nd floor galleries have two exhibits worth going out of the way to see. "From Two Arises Three" focuses on the work of two American contemporary artists working in uniquely Chinese styles: painter Arnold Chang and photographer Michael Cherney.

Arnold Chang's early artistic education began with his studies under the influential artist and collector C.C. Wang. In the late 1970's, Cheng spent two days a week studying artistic theory and technique at Wang’s studio and one day a week at Wang’s classes at the China Institute. After years of study under Wang and also copying the works of old Chinese masters, Chang said he finally had a “breakthrough” with brush and ink. His technique fused the austerity of traditional Chinese painting techniques with the spontaneity of modern Chinese painters.

Chang, working in his New Jersey studio, has become one of the world’s most respected painters working in the traditional Chinese style. Chang describes his works as abstract and improvisational in nature, saying he simply lets his hand and wrist react to the paper semi-randomly, then connects the resultant “squiggles” according to his understanding of traditional Chinese painting to form a landscape.

Photographer Michael Cherney was raised in upstate New York but fell in love early with China and Chinese culture and language, moving to Beijing in 1991.

In an interview with TAP (Trans Asian Photography Review). Cherney relates how he came to photography after a serious illness. The New York Daily News came out with a book about his grandfather's photography which inspired him to begin to utilize the camera as a tool to understand the world.

Cherney’s photography involves painstakingly cropping the landscape photographs he takes throughout the Chinese countryside and evokes the work of ancient Chinese masters, a preoccupation with history and extensive research.

In a video interview showing at the museum. Cherney and Chang then spoke about how they came to be friends and, later, collaborators. Cherney said he first met Chang in 2007 at the Chengdu biennial, where the two were among the roughly 70 artists from China and abroad included in the event. Chang noted some similarities and a “common essence” in their work, and the two began experimenting with ways to combine Cherney’s photography — printed on traditional xuan paper — with Chang’s ink painting as a way to “bring both media forward” into the 21st century. Cherney and Chang first showed their collaborative works at Princeton in 2009.

While their collaboration takes a variety of forms, typically Cherney travels to historic sites in China and takes black-and-white 35 mm photographs. Using a fast film, he purposely brings the grain of the photograph to the forefront. At a certain point, the grain of the photographs begins to resemble the brushstrokes of painting. He then prints the image on Chinese xuan paper—normally used not for photography but for works of ink—and he passes it along to Chang. Chang expands the photographic image into a larger work by means of the brush.

Cherney said he first crops and digitally alters his film images then prints them in pigment on xuan paper before shipping them from his studio in Beijing to Chang, essentially “challenging” Chang to fill in the image. Chang, speaking on the process, said he views it as “a game, a sport, a challenge,” as he only gets one chance with each print.

Through March 1, 2015

"Tradition on Fire" (also in the 2nd floor galleries) highlights 22 works by 20 contemporary Japanese artists. The motto for this show might be everything old is new again as all the works - no mater what form they take - exhibit a distinct Japanese sensibility through their forms and respect for the material. Through 2015.

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