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Paul Chan, Installation view, Sade for Sade's Sake, Greene Naftali, New York, 2009

From video to drawing, writing to publishing, to kinetic objects and beyond, the Hong Kong-born, New York-based artist Paul Chan has found ever-new means by which to realize a sprawling set of artistic, philosophical, and political positions. Well-versed in Classics and critical theory, modernist literature and ’90s hip-hop, Chan has, since the turn of the 21st century, infused his art with a Homeric quality: cunning, which the artist describes as “twofold or dialectical.” The figure of Odysseus “illustrates in emphatic fashion what I think we intuitively understand,” Chan has said: “that reasoning is discursive and compelling when it is also aesthetical.” Drawing on a disparate array of visual and textual references, his early net-based projects and video installations like My birds... trash... the future (2004) illustrated Chan’s own cunning—his commitment to advancing discourse and aesthetics, each through the other. The 7 Lights (2005) would distill animation further—just light and shadow—immersing the viewer in an interpretation of the Old Testament creation story.

After his initial burst of activity and recognition, Chan withdrew from art production from 2009–14. He kept working, however, establishing the imprint Badlands Unlimited, which published over 50 titles by artistic predecessors and peers (Yvonne Rainer, Cory Arcangel, Martine Syms), philosophers (from Socrates to Wittgenstein), and Chan himself. He returned to art in 2014, staging a retrospective at Schaulager, Basel and winning the Guggenheim Foundation’s Hugo Boss Prize. Since then, he has extended his animation practice off-screen, with a series of motile nylon figures, their rippling movements propelled by electric fans and their forms and titles registering Chan-ian concerns both metaphysical and political. These so-called Breathers manifest what the artist theorizes as the “kairological artwork”—objects which “seize time the way a beat holds a song… They last as experiences by not staying whole as forms.”

Paul Chan, 1st Light, 2005. Digital video projection. 14:00 minutes

Paul Chan lives and works in New York. Chan was named a 2022 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Breathers, a major solo exhibition of his recent practice organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, is currently on view at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Recent solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali, New York (2020, 2019, 2017); Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada (2018); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2017); Deste Foundation Project Space, Slaughterhouse, Hydra (2015); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); Schaulager, Basel (2014); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2009); New Museum, New York (2008); and Serpentine Gallery, London (2007). The 2014 recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize, Chan co-curated the exhibition Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection (2019), and in 2007 he collaborated with Creative Time and The Classical Theatre of Harlem to stage a site-specific presentation of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans.

His work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Art Institute of Chicago; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent loan to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; M+, Hong Kong; Magasin III, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

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