David Diao (b. 1943, Chengdu, Sichuan, China) is the one of the preeminent Chinese-American painters of his generation. He has been represented by Postmasters Gallery since 1985. His most recent works, debuting at West Bund, bring together themes that have been threaded throughout Diao’s five-decade oeuvre: the confluence and tension of East and West, identity politics, family history and autobiography, and the lineage of avant-garde abstraction.
The fourteen paintings presented at West Bund combine Diao’s family history with iconography of Western Modernism. Traditional Chinese seals and personal inherited objects are shown alongside the logo of modernist furniture company, Herman Miller. Other paintings reference the Russian avant-garde. El Lissitzky’s monogram and letterhead are deployed as compositional elements, and Kazmir Malevich’s 1915 painting Black Square and Red Square is found in works like Actual Scale and Suprematist Herman Miller, the latter of which borrows Malevich's formal arrangement. Such couplings—between Chinese history and European Modernism—suggest a bridge between two worlds, cultures, and styles.
Diao’s paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Hirshorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Akron Museum, the Brittany Regional Contemporary Art Fund, France; M+, Hong Kong; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Vancouver Art Gallery. A 2015 retrospective at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, curated by Philip Tinari, brought together 115 of Diao’s artworks, his largest, most comprehensive exhibition to-date.
Among Diao’s many accolades, he has received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in painting (1973), grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (1990), an Adolph and Esther Gottleib Foundation Grant (1993), and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant in Visual Arts (2015).