Steaming Cup: A Brief History, 1982-2019
January 24 – February 28, 2019
460C Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
Much of Aaron Fink’s artistic practice revolves around the intensive exploration of a single image – a flower, a historical or literary figure or a food item, for example. For decades, Fink has investigated the image of a coffee cup with steam arising from the presumed hot liquid within. It began with a memory: Fink’s attempt to document a moment in a Parisian café at night when the yellow headlights of passing cars reflected off the white coffee cup that sat before him. Why did that moment stand out as meriting this form of documentation? Was it sentimental, or purely visual, or a combination of the two? How is it that certain mundane encounters capture our imagination?
In Fink’s work the mundane becomes the monumental and the simple object embodies all that matters about his artistic inquiry. Fink’s early “cups” play with notions of volume and flatness. The steam might imitate ocean foam (a holdover from his early “wave” paintings) or rise in snake-like bands, the ethereal made concrete. In later works the steam seems to overtake the cup as more of the picture plane is devoted to the explosion of color and movement that Fink draws out. In the 1990s, as he began to examine scholar’s rocks (gongshi) as subject matter, the steam began to echo both the sculptural forms of the rocks as well as their randomness. The most recent works continue Fink’s exploration of how paint, dripped, scraped or impastoed, can capture the waft of steam from a cup – like a fleeting memory.
The “steaming cup” has grown to be one of Fink’s signature images. This exhibition offers a glimpse of his treatment of the theme over more than 30 years in paintings, works on paper and editioned prints. Fink received his MFA from Yale University and his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has exhibited his work worldwide and is represented in numerous museum collections including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.