March 13, 2020

John Wu: Dad's Hands Are Smaller

ArtCenter College of Design's Fine Art Department is proud to present Dad’s Hands Are Smaller, an exhibition of paintings by John Wu, a graduate of the department who has since gone on to gain attention for his explorations of how art interfaces with daily life and relationships.

John Ziqiang Wu has created an artistic practice that has one foot planted in the wry questioning approach of California conceptual art and the other foot in the tender intimacy of David Hockney’s portraits of friends and family engaged in daily life. He has charted his explorations in a series of artist’s books: Learning Art and Art Learning Society (2017), The Lamps’ Story (2018), and CalArts’ Story: The Place and The People (2018). In the books, he documents observations of his surroundings while asking questions about how institutions work and how we build relationships within those institutions. The books are anchored by delicate succinct watercolor paintings of the environments he is in, the people he knows and the objects that interface with their lives.

The watercolors in Dad’s Hands Are Smaller were created during a time when Wu’s father underwent a serious medical emergency which forced Wu to drop out of school and attend to his family. He began making the paintings, around 200 in all, as a way to keep his balance during a stressful time when days were spent in the hospital environment. When he returned to school, the experience of making the paintings allowed him a way to re-imagine his artistic practice as one rooted in helping people to see creativity as a resource open to everyone, not just people trained in art schools. As he says, “The story of art is in everyone.”

These paintings form the basis for this show at ArtCenter, along with an exhibition of the books. It is particularly apt that this exhibition takes place in the Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall in the 870 building at ArtCenter's South Campus, as the building houses both the Fine Art and the Illustration programs, and Wu graduated from the Fine Art department. This exhibition is running concurrently with Art Making, a survey of Wu’s recent work at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, (on view until March 29, 2020.)

John Wu was born in 1983 in Tangshan, China. He received his BFA in Fine Art from Art Center College of Design in 2013 and his MFA in Photo/Media from the California Institute of the Arts in 2017. He is the co-founder of Learning Art and Art Learning Studio, an art tutoring workshop he has run with his wife, Yinan, in Chino, California since 2014. His work has been seen in recent shows at SALT, Istanbul (2018); Night Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); and Pasadena Museum of California Art (2010). His exhibition The Third Thing was recently on view at Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University, Bakersfield (2019). Wu is currently the Artist in Residence at the Hammer Museum in Westwood.

Admission to the exhibition is free. The Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall is located in the entrance lobby of 870 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, just north of Glenoaks Avenue and one block west of the Arroyo Parkway. There is free parking provided in the lot adjacent to the building. The 870 Building is one block south of the Fillmore Station of the Gold Line Metro.

About ArtCenter: Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round educational programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.

Installation photo of John Wu exhibit