David Diao (2005)


This study provides the first comprehensive survey of the work of Chinese-American painter, David Diao. Diao’s work is examined thematically and chronologically, analyzing its position with respect to late-Modernist painting and post-modern art of the 1980s and after. The key research question elaborated is how painting might sustain itself as a form of cultural critique, extending a long-standing and extensive inquiry by the author. The question is introduced through an analysis of Diao’s abiding interest in Formalism. It demonstrates how the artist has transformed and undermined aspects of Clement Greenberg’s theory of Modernist painting, using methodologies from semiotics and post-structuralism and imagery from seminal avantgarde practices of the 20th century in painting,  architecture and design, as well as significant movements in Western art since 1945, such as Abstract Expressionism and Minimal Art. Diao’s most recent work is discussed in terms of identity and race, and places his painting in a larger context of visual culture. The text traces how the artist’s novel use of constructed photographic and found imagery derived from the mass cultural representations of Asians, contributes to the discourse of ‘otherness’ and challenges racial stereotypes. The study concludes with a reflection on Diao’s conscious positioning of his practice on the margins of modern and post-modern art.