New York School abstract painter Diao's early works of the 1960s and 1970s are characterised by an earnest desire to contribute to the Modernist canon, while questioning its lineage and theoretical underpinnings. Early influences were Barnett Newman, a significant figure through Diao's career, and the hard-edge painter Al Held. By the early seventies, Diao's formalism was inflected with the social, cultural, and political. This has remained the primary preoccupation of Diao's work ever since. However, in the mid-eighties, Diao's style shifted radically, as he began incorporating silkscreened images, vinyl lettering, hand-drawn marker, and painted words, detailing his personal life and practice. Combining his radical formalism with avant-garde iconography, identity politics, and autobiography—namely, his Chinese identity as perceived by Western audiences, and his formative years as a boy in China, despite coming of age in America—Diao confronts the complexity of histories, whether they are canonised, global, or private, all of which are deeply personal to him.
Text courtesy ShanghART.