Behind the “Abstract Transformation”

Achang Su


As one of the essential Chinese American abstract painters in modern America, George Chann’s transformation from figurative to abstract art is closely related to an influential creative group: modern Chinese American artists in the United States. Their artistic pursuits, characterized by dispersion, migration, and cultural exchange, are indispensable subjects of global art history. During the brief fervor of abstract expressionism in the 1950s and 1960s, this article explores how George Chann turned towards conceptual practice from his mature portraiture style and investigates the underlying reasons for this lifelong exploration. Taking George Chann as a case study, this research examines how Chinese American painters in California in the 20th century, to what extent and in what depth, contributed to the development of modern art centered around the United States. It constructs a narrative of intertwined and mutually reinforcing paths of diverse forms of modern art development. It provides substantial evidence for studying marginalized communities, ethnic minority history, and “decentralized” approaches to American art.

Key Words

Chinese American, figurative, representation, abstract, transformation

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