Born in Boston in 1951, Hsu spent his early childhood in Zürich, Switzerland, while his father was completing his engineering dissertation. That was followed by a drastic change of scenery, as Hsu then moved to Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia. At the age of 10 in Wisconsin, Hsu’s mother arranged private lessons in the art department of the school where his father taught. A precocious artist, Hsu started winning awards and showing in museums while living in Virginia. “My first one-person show was at the Roanoke Fine Arts Center in my early teens, after which I began selling work privately,” Hsu says.
While studying architecture at MIT in the mid-1970s—as well as a stint studying filmmaking at the Carpenter Center at Harvard—he realized that his deepest interest lay somewhere in the technological ether.
“Philosophically, I was interested in this technological context that I had no idea about,” Hsu says. “Conceptually, I was always interested in the object, and the change in our understanding of the object,” he adds.
This “technological context” was the one that would rise from the ashes of Fordism and manufacturing.
After moving to New York in the late 1970s, the artist worked as a word processor at a law firm while also working full-time on his art practice. He had a solo show with White Columns in 1984, and another with Pat Hearn in 1985. “I was always doing both painting and sculpture together,” Hsu says. Indeed, the works combined not only mediums, but also probed the fusion of the body and technology. Hsu utilized the shape and spirit of screens before they were a ubiquitous reality, and rounded the edges of his sculptural, trompe-l’oeil works before ergonomic design was mass market—pieces like BlueBlood (1985), which seem to combine these features with a microbiological focus on cell-like structures swimming in waves, or Ooze (1987), an installation that resembles a lake with grids floating atop.