A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Diao, David

Other Names: 刁德謙

Asian American, Chinese American

"One of the high points of my early years in New York was helping to install Barnett Newman's 'Stations of the Cross' at the Guggenheim Museum in 1966. I go to see his work whenever it is on view. I also have every catalogue and text pertaining to his work I can lay my hands on. Upon hearing of his death in 1970, I named a painting in his honor; one of the few instances in my life in which I paid homage to a particular artist. In the years since, my regard for him has not diminished.

Looking at the table in 'The Complete Drawings' annotating the work over a 27 year exhibition career, I was moved to notice how few works he completed. Measured against his enormous influence on me and others, it puts into question the convention that great artists are prolific. I wanted to make my astonishment visible and chose a Newmanesque scale and format to do so. Beginning with that painting, 'Barnett Newman: Chronology of Work', 1990, there are now four paintings in this series. Last fall, at the invitation of the Olive Press of Cornell University, I further extended the series by making a suite of 5 silkscreen prints.

Much recent abstract painting remains enmeshed in an infinite regress of formal self-definition. To avoid the aridness this entails for me, I have imported into my work specific facts: names and dates. Often the paintings resemble blackboards, charts and diagrams. In the sense of being 'merely' informational signs, some would see it as a humbling tack for painting. For me it's possibly an enabling one. By addressing narrower but more specific subject matter, I hope to escape grand universalist claims often still made for abstract painting. Yet the works themselves are resolutely paintings, directly and matter-of-factly painted. I wish Barney were around to look at them."

David Diao, Artist Statement, 1991

Gallery of Selected Works