December 29, 2017

Cao Jun @ McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College - Hymns to Nature

Cao Jun: Hymns to Nature
McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College
February 5 – June 3, 2018



CAO JUN 
Golden Autumn 金秋, 2017
Ink and watercolor on paper, mounted on board, 108 x 78 cm 
© Cao Jun

CAO JUN 
Misted Mountain and Trees 烟山云树霭苍茫, 2016 
Ink and watercolor on paper, mounted on board, 78 x 108 cm 
© Cao Jun

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents the first United States exhibition of works by contemporary Chinese artist Cao Jun. Cao Jun: Hymns to Nature will be on display in the Museum’s Daley Family and Monan Galleries.

The exhibition comprises sixty-four works, all from the artist’s collection, consisting of watercolor and mixed media paintings, calligraphy, porcelain, and digital media.



CAO JUN 
The Red Peak 红顶, 2016
Mixed media on canvas, 92 x 130 cm 
© Cao Jun

CAO JUN 
Thousands of Rivers Converge 万水归堂, 2016 
Ink and watercolor on paper, mounted on board, 120 x 114 cm 
© Cao Jun

Cao Jun was born in 1966 and raised in Jiangsu Province in southern China, where the lakes and rivers shaped his childhood environment. He studied and worked for eighteen years 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 and traveled throughout Europe and the United States. More recently he journeyed to the polar regions and northern Alaska. During his travels, he gained new perspectives that influenced his work. 

Hymns to Nature examines the deep roots of Cao Jun’s art in the experience of nature and how he portrays our place within it, according to organizers. It also illuminates his novel responses to admired, earlier paintings by his countrymen, and encourages viewers to ponder a dynamic dialogue between Chinese art of the past and that of the present. 



CAO JUN 
Poetry’s Evocative Power over Wind and Fog 诗句成风, 2014 
Ink and watercolor on paper, mounted on board, 108 x 78 cm 
© Cao Jun
“The McMullen Museum is grateful to Professor Sallis [curator, Boston College Philosophy Department] for bringing Cao Jun, already well known in China, to our attention and to working with us to organize this important contemporary artist’s first exhibition and accompanying scholarly publication in the United States,” said McMullen Museum of Art Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.
Organized by the McMullen Museum, Hymns to Nature is curated by John Sallis, the Frederick J. Adelmann, SJ Professor of Philosophy at Boston College. The exhibition is underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.
“Since I first saw Cao Jun’s paintings while visiting his museum complex in Wuxi, China, I have become increasingly convinced that he is among the most highly original and creative artists of our time,” said John Sallis. “His art blends exquisitely the themes of the classical Chinese tradition with modern artistic features similar to those of Western art. From his early depictions of wild animals to his recent, more abstract paintings of the most elemental forces of nature and the cosmos, his work brings to light profound visions that, without his art, would remain unseen. Curating this exhibition has only deepened my appreciation of his remarkable artistic achievement.”


CAO JUN 
The Mountain Looks like the Sea 苍山如海, 2013 
Mixed media on canvas, 89 x 116 cm 
© Cao Jun 
“It is an honor to stage Hymns to Nature at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College—my first solo exhibition since immigrating to the United States,” said Cao Jun. “Including a collection of representative works reflecting eight different artistic styles that I have created over the past nearly thirty years, I strongly believe that it will be the most important exhibition of my life.” 

CAO JUN 
A Cloud-Enshrouded Mountain Enters into a Dream 云山入梦, 2012 
Ink and watercolor on paper, mounted on board, 140 x 78 cm 
© Cao Jun

CAO JUN 
Pulsating Space  脉动空间, 2012 
Mixed media on canvas, 145 x 84 cm 
© Cao Jun

Arranged thematically, the exhibition opens with Cao Jun’s 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.

Exhibition sections include: The Spirit of Animality; The Poetics of Water; The Look of Landscape; Botanicals; Reflections of Autumn; Dreams of Space; Calligraphy; Porcelain; Songs of the Earth.



CAO JUN 
A Pond of Lotus  一塘荷气, 2010
Porcelain, 40 x 28 cm 
© Cao Jun

CAO JUN 
National Spirit 国风, 1999 
Ink and watercolor on paper, 180 x 144 cm 
© Cao Jun
“John Sallis’s interpretation of my works has been penetratingly profound, as he has balanced the convergence of Eastern and Western cultures contained in the images that I created with points, lines, and planes to interpret my stories and spiritual pursuits,” Cao Jun said. “Working with Nancy Netzer and the staff of an internationally leading academic museum like the McMullen has been a truly rewarding experience.”
Exhibition Catalogue
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.
In his introduction, John Sallis writes: “During the past decade, Cao Jun has visited many of the most important museums in the world in order to study at first hand their masterpieces. This experience has widened his horizon, yet also has made him aware of the differences between Asian art and Western art; his awareness of these differences is, in part, responsible for the unpredictable, diverse styles of his art.”
McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College 
2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135
www.bc.edu/artmuseum

Cao Jun's website: www.caojunarts.com

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