History: HN Han (Hsiang-Ning Han) is an internationally renowned artist, documentarian, curator and art educator, known for his evolving artistic style and creating his own form of pointillism with a spray gun. By reviving and transferring 19th century Post-Impressionism to 1970s New York, he influenced New York art movement during the height of New Realism.
Born in Hunan, China in 1939, Han’s family followed the Nationalist party and resettled in Taiwan at the height of the Sino-Japanese war. Briefly after graduating from the National Taiwan Normal University in 1960, he was invited to become a member in the “Fifth Moon Group,” a revolutionary art collective at the forefront of the Chinese modern art scene. Shortly after in 1961, Han represented Taiwan for the exhibition at VI Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, and exhibited at the 2nd Biennale de Paris. He increasingly gained international recognition for his abstract artwork through participating in numerous exhibits in Africa, Australia, the United States and Europe. By 1965, at the age of 25, he held his first one-person exhibition at the Taiwan Arts Center in Taipei.
In 1967, Han immigrated to New York City, settling in a Soho loft on Broome Street. Caught in the currents of minimal art in New York, Han’s shift in artistic technique was influenced by Jules Olitski, who pioneered the use of the spray gun technique in abstractionism. After experimenting and refining his own painting technique between 1968-1969, Han made his foray into the New York City art scene with his first one-man exhibition in New York at French & Company in 1970. In the following year, Han joined OK Harris Gallery where he regularly exhibited until 1984. Throughout the early 1970s, Han honed his spray painting techniques by modeling Seurat’s Post-Impressionist form to create a color separation method, which eventually became his signature “dot” style. In employing his original technique, he completed several photo-realist works with New York City scenes as his main subject, including “Subtle New York Cityscapes”(1971) and “Soho District” (1974), all of which his own photography and documentation served as main composition sources for larger paint renderings. In addition to building a photographic archive of Manhattan architectural fixtures and cityscapes, Han’s photo-documentation extends to include film recordings of exhibits in various Lower East Side galleries such as OK Harris Gallery, as well as artist gatherings such as the Tuesday Lunch Club, which Han partook in with other New York City based Asian American artists such as Ik-Joong Kang, Bing Lee and Ken Chu. From 1985-1986, Han’s technique in New York cityscapes made a turn along with the subject of his works – moving from still landmarks to street crowds, bird eye’s views and street intersections.
Beginning in the late 1980’s, Han’s work reflected a return to his roots in China and Taiwan and for the first time, art was utilized to comment on Chinese and Taiwanese politics. From his travels to China and observing the Student Democratic Movement, Han created the “Tiananmen Square” series in 1989, which he completed in New York. One of his most politically vocal pieces debuted in 1991, the subject centered on “violence talks” within the Taipei legislative branch. Han’s usage of archival materials made a comeback when the “Mount Huang” series was produced between 1989-1991 from photos and videos he took to create a revival of Chinese Song dynasty naturescape in his signature dot form. In 1998, Han began his rubbing prints series, capturing street textures of manholes and graffiti in New York City. The following year, Han continued his street prints project in Taiwan. Since 2000, Han settled in Dali, China, after acquiring land to build a home and studio, which he later expanded to include a gallery and museum space.
In addition to producing art, Han has been an art curator and educator. In 1976, he began teaching at the Graduate School of New York University. Han has also served as a Visiting Artist for the Art Institute in Chicago (1979) and taught at St. Thomas Aquinas as a visiting professor in 1988. His curated shows include Neither East nor West: Seven Contemporary New York Artists for Taipei Gallery in 1993.
Han’s art is driven by a self-developed “no categories” (bu shi dong xi) philosophy and challenges the distinction of Eastern and Western art, as well as breaks traditional concepts of time and space. He has exhibited widely in various important museum exhibitions including Museu de Arte Moderna (Sao Paulo), Musee d’Art Moderne (Paris), Museum of Recklinghausen (Germany), Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Hirshhorn Museum.
Huang, K and Yu, S, H.N. Han: A Retrospective (1961-1993), exhibition catalog, 30 April – 12 June 1994. Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, TW.
Kwang-chung, Y and Ignatius, P et.al, Han: Paintings by the Contemporary Chinese Artist,1967. National Taiwan Arts Center, Taipei, TW.
Spanning 12.0 linear feet, Han’s media archive consists of documentary materials from the 1960s – 1990s in various formats BETA, 8 mm film and VHS. Approximately 3.0 linear feet of materials are from the early to late 1970s, providing documentation of significant gallery shows in New York City that featured the work of contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons. Other film records of exhibits and art functions include venues such as the Brooklyn Museum and OK Harris Gallery in downtown New York, as well as the Soho Art Festivals in the 1970s. Of particular significance are Han’s video recordings of artist meetings from the early 1980s – 1990s that took place in his New York City downtown studio, which documented the conversations of Asian American artists including Hsia Yang, Bing Lee, Ming Fay and David Diao. Videos from this period also include filming of public demonstrations and ephemeral street art in New York City. Approximately 2.0 linear feet of materials are in BETA format, some are duplicates from 8 mm films from 1980-1982 and 1987-1989, which are intermixed documentation of his personal life with family and his visits to various Soho galleries. Also present are documentary footage from Han’s travels in Taiwan and Europe from 1970-1971.
Stored on a Macbook pro laptop and external hard drives are original film vignettes that Han directed, filmed and edited. Spanning from 1966 to the present, these poetic compositions were filmed in various parts of the world, but mainly in Taiwan, China and New York City and range in length from 10 – 20 minutes each. His oldest film composition, “Running” (跑), dates back to 1966 and was filmed in Taiwan. Re-mastered and edited versions also exist for select older pieces from the late 1960s – 1970s. A recent piece composed in 2010 explores the folklore of local women in Yun Nan province, while his New York City compositions made in 2010 are rooted in landmark sites, such as Grand Central Station. Also stored as digital files is a photographic collection of Han’s travels in NYC, dating from the late 1960s – present. Inspired in documenting places with an artistic angle, Han’s vast collection of New York City photos is an attempt to contrast and document the change of landmarks from the past to present. Han’s most recent project in 2012 consists of 373 photos that capture buildings, architectural facets and landmark sites of New York City, such as the World Trade Center.
Approximately 2.0 linear feet of materials comprise of photos from Han’s professional and personal life. Arranged in binders, 0.5 linear feet of materials are photo slides documenting Han’s art making in his New York City studio. One large binder is devoted to the photographic records and process of Han’s artwork from 1998-1999, majority of which cover his sidewalk paintings that involve rubbing and rolling paint onto paper to capture the texture of various city sites. Other photos are of Han’s artwork of ink on paper, produced in China and Taiwan in the late 1990s.The family albums provide an insiders glimpse into his personal life from the 1970s – 1990s, consisting primarily of Han documenting his travels throughout China and New York City. Most materials in the photographic collection are negatives and Kodak color slides.
2.5 linear feet of materials are collected catalogs, clippings and postcards of Han’s exhibits as an artist and curator, as well as scholarly books that cite his work. Many of the exhibit catalogs are bi-lingual, while some are mainly in traditional Chinese. Titles of note include East meets West, a show curated by Han that was an artist collaboration with his daughter, Eva and The Golden Door–Artist Immigrants of America, 1876-1976, a publication from the 1976 Hirshhorn Museum Show. Other mixed materials include .3 linear feet of newspaper clippings spotlighting Han’s art in various Chinese Newspapers in the late 1980s – early 1990s. There is also 1.0 linear feet of bulk postcard reproductions featuring Han’s paintings from the 1970s – 1980s.