The painter Zao Wou-Ki (1921-2013) is by now one of the best-known Chinese painters of the 20th century. It helped that he lived in Paris from 1948 on and that his gestural abstractions, which drew on Eastern and Western sources, enjoyed great success in Europe and the United States. By 1952 he had had solo shows in Paris and New York and went on to be collected by many museums on both continents. In New York he exhibited in the late 1950s and ’60s at Samuel Kootz’s gallery, an Abstract Expressionist stalwart.
Zao Wou-Ki: No Limits at Asia Society is the first comprehensive show of the artist’s work in the United States. It is an intriguing, peripatetic, at times beautiful affair of 60 works from 1945 to 2003, with paintings on canvas and paper, watercolors and several kinds of prints. Yet Zao slips through your fingers, running hot then cold, refusing to settle down.