Viewing Room

Tu Hongtao

Slat House, The Royal Poinciana Plaza
50 Cocoanut Row, Suite 122
Palm Beach, FL

On view February 9, 2021

For inquiries, please call us at +1 646 831 0844.

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Beginning February 9, 2021, Lévy Gorvy will debut Tu Hongtao: Drunken Forest a single work focus exhibition that is the first public U.S. presentation for the celebrated Chinese artist. On view at the gallery’s Palm Beach location, the monumental canvas Drunken Forest (2020) will introduce American viewers to Tu’s painterly innovation and his compelling synthesis of diverse artistic traditions.

Based near Chengdu, Tu Hongtao (b. 1976) explores the relationship between memory, place, image, and technique in his paintings. A graduate of the renowned China Academy of Art, Tu draws upon the avant-garde tradition pioneered by his predecessors Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun—two 20th-century masters who bridged Chinese tradition and postwar abstraction. Inspired by the spirit of Chinese literati painters along with Western innovators, ranging from Paul Cézanne to Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, and David Hockney, Tu fuses lyrical abstraction with a poetic, interpretative approach to landscape. Combining calligraphic form, lush colors, and fluid brushwork, his art invites consideration of the relationships between representation, abstraction, and expression. Drunken Forest is a masterpiece inspired by three journeys undertaken by the artist in 2020 to sites in his native Sichuan Province. There he studied ancient stone carvings—including reliefs and statues in Qingshen County, Anyue County, and the Dazu District—that span a vast period of time, from the Sui dynasty (c. 580–620) to the 20th century, and encompass Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist iconography. For Tu, this overlapping of eras and cultures resonates with his own artistic goal of configuring time and space as manifesting both psychological sensation and physical reality. Drunken Forest resulted from Tu’s travels: combining natural motifs observed in nature with an array of memories and associations they invited, the painting features bravura brushwork and lush oil paint in rich tones to suggest foliage, earth, stone, and sky.

While Drunken Forest amalgamates the characteristics of terrain Tu visited from memory and sketches, the work was also inspired by sculptures he visited at these sites. Remarking on the Purple Bamboo Guanyin, a celebrated statue among the Anyue Stone Carvings dating from the Song dynasty (c. 960–1279), he observed the work’s “free transition between sculptural and pictorial language,” noting how “the contour of the mountain is naturally represented in the characteristic of the stone.” Tu also drew from the compositional structure and technique employed by Cézanne, observing that “Cézanne’s language of painting was close to that of the quarry under Mont Sainte-Victoire.” Rooted both in the visual motifs of the landscape and a cross-cultural appreciation for the potential of painting, Drunken Forest has a vivid presence and a compelling sense of place realized through Tu’s decidedly original vision.

This presentation follows Twisting and Turning, the artist’s recent sold-out debut exhibition in London, which was on view at Lévy Gorvy’s space at 22 Old Bond Street and at 40 Albemarle Street with an installation of his monumental work, Green Mountains Shall See Me Like This (2019). This exhibition was preceded by the gallery’s career survey of Tu’s paintings in Hong Kong in early 2020. In 2018, Tu’s solo exhibition A Timely Journey, traveled from the Long Museum’s location in Shanghai to its Chongqing pavilion.