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11 Dec 2020

Shen Wei: Painting In Motion

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Reviewed by Franklin Einspruch

Your author found himself sitting among the canvases of multidisciplinary artist Shen Wei wishing that they would move him with greater force. We were born in the same year, studied Buddhism, marveled at the overlap of sensibilities between American abstraction and Asian ink painting, and gravitated to similar aesthetics. And the pictures are good, basically Abstract Impressionism with Monet switched out for Bada Shanren. The labels discuss Wei's laconic choreography and paintings made with his feet without ever using the words butoh or gutai. Maybe familiarity was breeding contempt.

Like a lot of monochrome abstractionists, even Franz Kline, Wei's color is timid. When it appears, it's locked to the mineral palette of the Qing landscape tradition. The compositions are reliable, based on seas, mountains, and skies, but not daring. In their favor, though, they have love in them, for materials, for process, for beauty, and for the viewer. That much is palpable, even to your jaded reporter. While that's not everything, it nevertheless warrants thanks.

Exhibition Shen Wei: Painting In Motion link
Start date 03 Dec 2020
End date 20 Jun 2021
Presenter Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum link
Venue 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA, USA map
Image Shen Wei, Untitled Number 8, 2013-2014, oil and acrylic on linen canvas, 165 ⅜ x 218 ⅛ inches, private Collection, Spain (courtesy of Shen Wei), © Shen Wei

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