Matthew Wong

Footprints in the Wind, Ink Drawings 2013–2017

Cheim & Read
547 West 25 Street
New York
May 5th 2021 — Sep 11th 2021

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The rich history of Chinese landscape painting, and specifically the influence of two years spent in Zhongshan, China, shine through in the late Matthew Wong’s powerful ink drawings, on view at Cheim & Read. In two dozen searching and sophisticated works, representing some of Wong’s earliest forays into painting, blacks can be so bold as to look, at first, as if inked by a woodblock, or so diffuse that they feather into the weave of the rice paper. Some, like Landscape with Bather (2017), announce their subjects forthrightly; others are suggestive, but abstract. Many are dotted with lonesome figures: in Inside the Flower Cave (2016), a skirted silhouette stands in a cocoon of strokes that resembles the intricate whorl of a fingerprint.

If one looks closely, even the darkest blacks yield the history of strokes that came before, as in the show’s titular work; and Wong takes care to dot each individual leaf of foliage across many of these drawings. Enough rays radiate off the sun in The Watcher (2017) to tally the years of lifetimes; the sun that irradiates is, even absent Van Gogh’s signature color, as searing as in the Dutchman’s works. Odyssey (2017) is one of the most simultaneously hopeful and somber paintings—a coupling which stalks many of Wong’s works. Trees loom dark and thick above a thin, winding passageway; but through the thicket, the way forth is filled with wonders.

Matthew Wong, Winter Wind, 2016. Ink on rice paper, 31 3/4 x 27 1/8 inches.