Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6th, 5-8pm
Nature and its actions are at once powerful and fragile. The moods and rages of the natural world have power over us, while its fragility renders it dependent upon our good intent. MARLENE TSENG YU’s first solo exhibition at ACA GALLERIES explores this turbulent interaction between nature’s inherent power and its dependency on us.
Yu experiences this interaction through the equally restless duality of heritage and modernism. Her early art training in her native Taiwan gave Yu a foundation in classical Chinese brushwork and an understanding of ancient China’s mystical association with its mountains, fields, sea and sky. Crashing against this heritage was the wild modernism Yu encountered when she arrived in the United States in 1963, when Abstract Expressionism was being challenged by the ever more radical philosophies of Post-Painterly Abstraction, Color Field painting, Minimalism, and the political and cultural turmoil that would influence American art through the 1960s and 70s. Amid this restlessness was the rise of the Environmental Movement and its efforts to make us aware of the human-made pollution threatening the natural world we rely on for our food, our water and the air we breathe. For Yu, whose identification with classical Chinese painting informed her own mystical bond with nature, this tug of war between the energy of artistic abstraction and the organic needs and realities of nature became the catalyst for her creative life.
Yu thus uses the environment’s organic realities —solid rock; molten lava; the motion of water; the texture of trees, and so on— as the fundamental syntax of an abstract visual language. Her use of color, often bold and sweeping across monumental canvases, expresses the wildness and passion in nature, not simply the prosaic facts of nature. Her brushwork, as delicate as it is strong, harnesses nature’s vigor while also exposing its fragility. And through it all, holding the passions and realities in balance, is the discipline and serenity of classical Chinese art.
Yu maintains a studio in New York City, where she has lived since 1967. Her work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the world and has been featured in hundreds of articles in prominent art publications in America and abroad. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Lorillard Wolfe Award from the National Academy of Design, the New York City Council’s President Andrew Stein Award for Cultural Pioneers, the University of Colorado’s Heritage Center Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the National Taiwan Normal University, among others.
The work of Marlene Tseng Yu is one of the creative bridges connecting what historians have called The American Century to what may now be described as art’s International Century. ACA Galleries’ exhibition of Yu’s abstract portraits of the threatened yet still magnificent natural environment is in keeping with the gallery’s heritage as a premier venue for artistically important and socially conscious art. Now in its eightieth year, ACA Galleries maintains stewardship of an inventory that includes works by America’s major artists of the twentieth century while it expands its mission to encompass the ongoing development of art in the twenty-first. Marlene Tseng Yu’s synthesis of East and West, of reality and abstraction, of nature’s power and dependency, will no doubt be part of that development.