A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Diao, David

Other Names: 刁德謙


"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