Cao Jun: Hymns to Nature
In the Daley Family and Monan Galleries
February 5–June 3, 2018
Cao Jun was born in 1966 and raised in Jiangsu Province in southern China, where the lakes and rivers shaped his childhood environment. For eighteen years he studied and worked near Mount Tai, one of China’s most ancient places of worship and ceremonial ritual. Concrete experience of both aquatic sites and mountainous terrain informed Cao Jun’s approach to artistic creation. After formal training in Beijing, he settled in New Zealand yet traveled throughout Europe and the United States. More recently he journeyed to the polar regions and northern Alaska.
Hymns to Nature is Cao Jun’s first exhibition in the United States. It examines the deep roots of his art in the experience of nature and how he portrays our place within it. It also illuminates his novel responses to admired, earlier paintings by his countrymen, encouraging us to ponder a dynamic dialogue between Chinese art of the past and that of the present.
Arranged thematically, the exhibition opens with his early works depicting wild animals. It moves on to later paintings where he employs the techniques of ink- and color-splashing to render mountain landscapes, water, and flowers. Subsequent areas display his calligraphy and porcelain. The exhibition concludes with more recent abstract works exploring the various configurations in which spatial phenomena can appear.
Hymns to Nature is accompanied by a catalogue, edited by John Sallis, with contributions by Chinese and American scholars that examine the ways in which Cao Jun’s art fuses elements of classical Chinese painting with modern abstract forms akin to those of Western art. Essays also discuss the philosophical and poetic dimensions of the artist’s work, as well as Cao Jun’s profound connections to the natural world.
Organized by the McMullen Museum, Hymns to Nature has been curated by John Sallis and underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.