Wenda Gu

China 1955

Installation, Conceptual Art, Calligraphy


Wenda Gu
Wenda Gu
March 30, 2017
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

Wenda Gu is one of China’s most influential and daring contemporary artists that revitalizes and reinterprets ancient Chinese practices and symbols entangling them with currently present meaning and style. Gu is known for using traditional ink painting, poetry, calligraphy and seal characters in new or fictional manner, as well as the use of human body materials, such as hair or placenta, as mediums of his art. Gu started as an artist who violated the Chinese orthodox doctrines of artistic values and questioned the authorities and became a fully praised international artistic figure that reflects on problems in the globalized world in his works.

 Gu - Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series J, 2011
Wenda Gu – Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series J, 2011 – Image courtesy of the artist and Hanart TZ Gallery

The Mythos of Lost Dynasties – First Work on Language

Gu is born in Shanghai, China in 1955, where he graduated from Shanghai School of Arts in 1976 and received his MFA from China Academy of Arts in 1981. There, he studied under the classical landscape painting master Lu Yanshao and taught from 1981 to 1987. During the period from 1981 to 1987, he created his The Mythos of lost Dynasties series of large scale ink paintings of fake, miswritten or invented but readable Chinese characters and printing style calligraphy. This was the first example of conceptual ink art in China and the exhibition itself was banned and closed by authorities, only to be opened for a circle of scholars and professionals. It was one of Gu’s first works that dealt with the limits of language and communication. All of his later pieces are structured under the same need to expose and overcome those limits. Since 1981, Gu had numerous solo and group museum and gallery exhibitions and attended many biennales worldwide.

in hong Kong they use monument exhibition
Gu Wenda – Tian Xiang – Image courtesy of ipreciation

The United Nations Project

In 1987 Gu moved to the US and firstly taught at the University of Minnesota, only to very quickly become recognized and praised as a great and important artist in the States. He moved to New York where he still lives, occasionally visiting China. In 1993 this artist started one of his most significant, inclusive and complex on-going global art projects – The United Nations. It is a series of installations with 21 national monuments and sub-projects in which the human hair is used for creating cryptic calligraphy in order to express a meaning of Internationalism. In The United Nations project every monument is a different installation and represents an art for itself in a contemporary setting. More than one million people from all over the world had contributed their hair for the United Nations project that creates an intense multicultural dialogue and transcends national and race differences. Critics have called the United Nations series a new form of mysticism and a great utopia of unification that can be made in art, which Gu himself characterizes as a work of universal peace and harmony.

The United Nations series – a new form of mysticism and a great utopia of unification

view the monument human exhibition in hong kong
Gu Wenda – United Nations, Man and Space – Image courtesy of theavantguardian

Cultural Translating

Among many other creative and inspiring artworks, Gu has one more on-going project since 1993. Namely, back then he started the project Forest of stone stelesan installation of 50 stone steles on which he retranslates and rewrites the poetry from the Tang dynasty. He translates it from Chinese to English and back to Chinese. His main occupation is the impossibility of translating one culture into another. But, as he says, cultural misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and mistranslations function as a great boost of inspiration and creativity and in that sense make the cultural communication possible and relevant. Gu notes that the creation of art is an experience itself, and that the reception of it in can be seen as a echo of this experience. He also insists on finding inspiration for his art in life and cultural exchange, avoiding gallery and museum exhibitions or work of other artists.

Gu lives and works in New York City.

Featured image: Wenda Gu – Image via galenclarke.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015The cultural hybridity the dorsky gallery, new york state university at stoney brook, long island, new york, usaGroup
2014Open books:artist and the chinese folding-booksart museum, institution of chinese studies, the chinese university of hong kong, hong kong, chinaGroup
2014Boundless possibilities important contemporary chinese ink works by four pioneering masters artshare, hong kong, chinaGroup
2014Post pop: east meets westsaatchi gallery, london, ukGroup
2014Secret signs: calligraphy in chinese contemporary the falckenberg collection, hamburg-hamburg, hamburg, germanGroup
2014Homage to hanart tz gallerygalerie 75 faubourg, paris, franceGroup
2014Open books plusaustralian defense force academy, canberra, australiaGroup
2014Open books + : artist’s books from the uk, china and australia logan art gallery, city of logan, austrialia Group
2014Ink art: past as present in contemporary china the metropolitan museum of art, new york, usaGroup
2014Chinese contemporary ink exhibition”, christie’s china, jingan kerry centre, shanghai, chinaGroup
2014Yanhuang genetic landscape #1 & #2 a special project for art stage, singaporeSolo
2014United nations a special project for art basel hong kong, chinaSolo
2014Transformationhanart gallery, hong kong, chinaSolo
2014Forest of stone steles – retranslation & rewriting tang poetryhanart booth, art basel, hong kong, chinaSolo
2014Cultural translationa special art project & exhibition art museum, hong kong university, hong kong, chinaSolo
2013Central park chamber fine arts, new york, usaSolo
2013Ink art: past as present in contemporary china the metropolitan museum of art, new york, usa Group
2013Water & ink – china contemporary ink paintingssotheby’s gallery, new york, usaGroup
2013Beyond the tradition: china contemporary ink paintings”,hong kong international convention center, china nGroup
2013Beyond the tradition: china contemporary ink paintingsart & science museum, maria bay sands, singaporeGroup
2013Beyond the tradition: china contemporary ink paintings taipei,basement, futon international convention centre, Group
2012Xu bing, ushio shinohara, gu wenda, qiu zhijie ink performances cantor arts center, stanford university, usaGroup
2012China contemporary ink artchristie’s hong kong, chinaGroup
2012Don't be shy, don't hold back: the logan collection at sfmoma san francisco museum of modern art, san francisco, usa Group
2012United nations china monument: tample of heaven google art project, hong kong museum of art, chinaGroup
2012China contemporary ink art saatchi gallery, england, londonGroup
2011A special curatorial project “home” for ullence center for the contemporary art, beijing, chinaSolo
2011Community of tastes:chinese contemporary art since 2000contemporary art musuem of brazil, sao paulo, brazilGroup
2011Inspiration diorpouchkine museum, russia Group
2011The hague under heaven the hague sculpture festival, hague, the netherlandsGroup
2011Shan shui the kunstmuseum luzern, swissGroup
201110th international shoe box sculptureuniveristy art gallery, california state university, dominguez hills, carson, california, usaGroup
201110th international shoe box sculpture tennessee valley museum of art, tuscumbia, alabama, usaGroup
201110th international shoe box sculpturelsu museum of art, shaw center for the arts, louisiana state university, baton rouge, louisiana, usaGroup
201110th international shoe box sculpture murray state kentucky, murray, kentucky, usaGroup
201110th international shoe box sculptureislas center for the arts, university of guam, mangilao, guamGroup
2010 Ink Art Retrospective show, He Xiangning Art Museum, OCT HUA Museum and OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, China Solo
2008 Design redefined, Contrasts Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2007 ‘Forest of Stone Steles And United Nations : We are Fortunate Animals’ John Museum Of Art, NYC, USA Solo
2007 '85 New Wave: the birth of Chinese contemporary art’, Ullens foundation, UCCLA, Pekin, ChinaGroup
2007 Made in China, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, DenmarkGroup
2006 ‘Brush and Ink: The Chinese art of Writing’, Metropolitan Museum of Art of New-York, USAGroup
2006Wenda GU Jiang Su Museum, Nanjing, China Solo
2006Wenda GU He Xiangning Art Museum, ,Shenzhen, China Solo
2006Wenda GU Art Gallery, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA Solo
2006Wenda GU Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, China Solo
2006Wenda GU Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA Solo
2006Wenda GU Denver Art Museum, Denver, USA Solo
2006Wenda GUPalazzo Ducale, Genoa, Italy Solo
2006Wenda GU California State University at Fullerton, USA Solo
2006Wenda GU China Institute, New York City Solo
2005 INK, Goedhuis Contemporary, New YorkGroup
2004Untitled Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh, Penn, USAGroup
20044th Shenzhen International Ink Painting BiennaleShenzhen Museum of Art, ChinaGroup
2004Exhibition Bard College, USAGroup
2004 ‘Working in Brooklyn’, Brooklyn Museum of Art, USAGroup
2004 Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition National Gallery of Malaysia, MalaysiaGroup
2004 ‘Contemporary Chinese Painting’, Art Museum, Wooster College, Ohio, USAGroup
2004 ‘Contemporary Chinese Painting’, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USAGroup
2004 ‘20th Anniversary Exhibition of Hanart Gallery’Hong Kong Arts Center, ChinaGroup
2004 Exhibition Bucknell College, USAGroup
2004Untitled Gettysburg College, USAGroup
2004 ‘Ink Painting Collection of Shanghai Art Museum’, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Untitled Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh, Penn, USAGroup
2003 Gu Wenda: from Middle Kingdom to Biological Millennium, University of North Texas Art Gallery, Denton, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Maine, USASolo
2002 First Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2002 ‘Site - Sight,’ Singapore Arts Festival, Asian Civilizations Museum, SingaporeGroup
2002 ‘New Way of Tea,’ Asia Society and Museum, New York, NYGroup
2002Untitled National Gallery of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Republic of KoreaGroup
2001 ‘Intersections and Translations,’ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, AustraliaGroup
2001 ‘Translated Acts - South East Asia Performance Art,’ Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NYGroup
2001 ‘Second Biennale of Asian Contemporary Art,’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Genova, ItalyGroup
2001 Ink Alchemy Number One, Enrico Navarra Gallery, Paris, FranceGroup
2001 ‘Re: Duchamp,’ 49th Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2000 ‘Inside Out: Chinese Art,’ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, AustraliaGroup
2000 ‘Conceptualist Art: Points of Origin 1950s-1980s,Miami Art Museum, Miami, FLGroup
2000Untitled Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
1999 ‘Babel of the Millennium,’ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1999 ‘Power of Word,’ Taiwan Museum of Art, Taizhong, TaiwanGroup
1998 ‘Inside Out,’ Asia Society, New York, NYGroup
1998 ‘Inside Out,’ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1998Untitled Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Monterrey, MexicoGroup
1998Untitled Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WAGroup
1998Untitled UBC Gallery Vancouver, CanadaGroup
1997 ‘Second Johannesburg Biennale,’ Johannesburg, South AfricaGroup
1996 ‘First Shanghai Biennale,’ Shanghai, People’s Republic of ChinaGroup
1996Untitled InterpolGroup
1996Untitled Row GalleryGroup
1996 The Mythos of Lost Dynasties, Binet Gallery, Tel-Aviv, IsraelGroup
1995 Hong Kong Museum, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of ChinaGroup
1995Untitled The Alternative Museum, New York, NYGroup
1995‘Silent Energy,’ Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, EnglandGroup
1995 ‘Mao Goes Pop, China Post 1989,’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, AustraliaGroup
1994Untitled Kroller MuseumGroup
1993Untitled Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, EnglandGroup
1992Untitled Enrico Garabaldi Arte Contemporanea, Milan, ItalyGroup
1990Untitled University Art Museum, California State University, Sacramento, CAGroup
1989 ‘China Avante Garde - No U turn,’ China National Art Gallery, Beijing, People’s Republic of ChinaGroup
1987Untitled York UniversityGroup