Filed under: Review | Tags: Blum & Poe, Ellen C. Caldwell, Oil Paint, Zhu Jinshi
Jinshi is a Beijing-based artist and Blum & Poe’s show is not just a 20-year retrospective, it is also his first solo presentation in the U.S. And it is delightful.
The gallery’s press release states, “Zhu Jinshi’s dynamic, nearly sculptural paintings avoid easy classification, defining themselves instead through an inherent physicality and visceral power.” Before going to the show, I did not fully appreciate or understand this statement. It takes seeing and experiencing the paintings to really understand how sculptural these pieces are and how engaging their sheer presence is. As I was experiencing the show, I made it my goal to share the “visceralness” of it, through detailed images and angles. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Installation view of The Third Time to Yellow Mountain and Gravity to Balance Violence. Courtesy of Blum & Poe.
Zhu Jinshi | Gravity to Balance Violence, 2007, Oil on canvas, 157 1/2 x 114 1/8 inches. Courtesy of Blum & Poe.
Entering the first gallery, visitors are met with two larger than life paintings: The Third Time to Yellow Mountain on the near wall and Gravity to Balance Violence on the far wall. The former stretches out to be about 21 feet across, while the latter looms above visitors at about 13 feet tall.
The only word to describe Gravity to Balance Violence is monumental. It truly gives the word a new meaning and it is hard to even show paintings to scale. It is at once sculptural, dramatic, deep, and overpowering.
Zhu Jinshi | Gravity to Balance Violence, DETAIL: One space of white canvas peaks through the density of the oil paint. Courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.
Zhu Jinshi | Gravity to Balance Violence, DETAIL: Looking up at the painting from ground level. Courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.
Details of the paint reveal the hand and muscle of the artist as piles of oil paint are literally shoveled and spatula’d onto the canvas. Looking up at the painting, one can see the sheer volume and mass of paint that overwhelms your senses as you stand beneath it.
Zhu Jinshi | The Third Time to Yellow Mountain, 2011, Oil on canvas, Four parts; 70 7/8 x 251 15/16 inches overall. DETAIL. Courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.
The Third Time to Yellow Mountain is also dense in scope and feel. It stretches out onto four contiguous panels, while the green, black, and white paints are reminiscent of water and flowing liquid as they change in delicacy, consistency, and application.
Zhu Jinshi | Snow of Bell Tower, 2010, Oil on canvas, Two parts; 47 1/4 x 31 1/2 inches each. Courtesy of Blum & Poe.
Zhu Jinshi | Dragon Boat Festival, 2011, Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches. Courtesy of Blum & Poe.
In the second gallery, more concurrent paintings are shown, ranging in dates from about 2006-2011. Some are lighter, mellower, and a bit more delicate, such works such as Snow of Bell Tower and Dragon Boat Festival. In these, one can see Jionshi’s same practice as in works from the first gallery, but on a more intimate scale and not as grandiose in size and density (although still very three-dimensional).
Zhu Jinshi | Black and White 4, 1990, Oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Blum & Poe.
The last gallery features Jinshi’s earlier works from 1990. One can see where the newer pieces are coming from in these smaller and more refined pieces. These paintings are all more neutral, with various shades of brown, cream, black, and white. Here, the brushstrokes are painted in such an intense way – similar to haboku (broken ink) or hatsuboku (flung ink) style of 15h century China, revealing a tradition that Jinshi not only references and draws upon, but also makes distinctly his own. The smell, feel, and sheer mass of being in the presence of Jinshi’s oil paintings is intoxicating and worthy of experiencing.
Zhu Jinshi was born in Beijing, China in 1954, where he currently lives and works. Zhu has been honored with numerous solo exhibitions and group exhibitions. The show is up through July 7th at Blum & Poe.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.
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