Every sincere painter tries to find an apt expression of his time, to communicate the view of his contemporaries, and to express their concern.
This is Yun Gee’s believe which has been consistently embodied in his work throughout his life. The art of Yun Gee not only delineates his versatile career, representing his enthusiastic response toward prevailing modern art trends, but also documents his contemplation of our times.
Yun Gee, born in 1906 in Canton, China, wa the son of a San Francisco Chinese worker. Yun Gee went to stay with his father, becoming a U.S. resident in 1921. Before leaving China for America, Yun Gee studied art at his hometown. In San Francisco, he studied painting and drawing with Gottardo Piazzoni and Otis Oldfield at the California School of Fine Arts. Under the guidance of Oldfield, Yun Gee became acquainted with European modern art movements, such as Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, and Synchronism, etc.. His work of this period reflects the great influence of Synchronism.
In 1926, Yun Gee and Otis Oldfield founded the Modern Art Gallery. He had his first one-man show at the gallery and decided to develop himself in Paris. There, Yun Gee was overwhelmed by European avant-garde art movement. He became acquainted with numerous prominent artists and writers and was enchanted with Surrealism, Symbolism, and Cubism. These influences may be easily identified from his work of this period. Also, Yun Gee’s works are imbued with poetic literary overtones, which reflect his Chinese background.
In 1930, Yun Gee decided to go to New York due to the depressed economic conditions in Paris. In New York, he held several one-man shows and took part in many important museum exhibitions. His work of this period reflects a keen observation of the cosmopolitan metropolis and also represents the impact of an industrial technology. His artistic production decreased from 1945 due to his poor health. he died in 1963 at the age of 57.
The study of modern Chinese art history after World War II has been one of the TFAM’s research guidelines since its inauguration. It is well acknowledged that the modernization of art and society developed simultaneously, although cultural evolution seems to proceed in a more subtle way. Nevertheless, the exploration of human nature and the representation of universal truths are still the same. In the last fifty years, Chinese artists like Hsu Pei-hung, Liu Hai-su, Liu chi-hsian, Yen Shui-lung and Yang San-lang have made tremendous contributions to the modernization of Chinese art. After overseas study, they returned to their homeland and devoted themselves to art education. Their concept of art reflects the prevailing social ideology of the time. It indicates an inclination toward a realistic and figurative style.
Meanwhile, artists like Chang Yu, Pan Yu-liang and Yun Gee represent another approach in our art history. Raised in both Easter and Western cultural traditions, they took on the Wester artistic style but pursued the self expression from an Easter aesthetic point of view. The art of Chang Yu and Pan Yu-liang was more acknowledged by their contemporaries, while Yun Gee’s virtuosity was not as well-known because of his geographical distance from China and other special circumstances. Nowadays, art historians and museum curators are exploring the relationship between individuality and artistic expression of the Easter aesthetics through Western art forms. His work shows that his Cubist interpretation of Chinese thinking is sincere, passionate, and faithful. It would be superficial to only emphasize the effects of cultural heritage in an artist’s mind and work. It is the persistence in the quest for the intrinsic value of art that counts. Yun Gee paid dearly for his art; but, the wisdom distilled from his difficult life breathes vitality and insight into his work.
The purpose of “The Art of Yun Gee” is to let our people understand more about this Chinese overseas artist who was unfamiliar to us during his life time. The idea started from Ms. Li Liu Lundin and Professor Liao Shiou-ping’s high recommendation. The significance of Yun Gee’s work is that even though he had an accomplished career overseas and was greatly influenced by Western culture and Western art forms, he never lost sight of Eastern art and cultural tradition. The planning for this project commenced in 1989 while I was on an annual museum visit to New York. The meeting with Mrs. Helen Gee and her daughter, Li-lan, who have practical understanding of Yun Gee’s work made this project possible. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Wang David Teh-yu and Ju Jane C. for their generous contribution to this show; I am also grateful to our museum colleagues, Pan Tai-fang, Ms. Lai Hsiang-ling, Mr. Chang Hsi-bin and Shih J. J.. They have worked very hard on this project. Special thanks are owed to the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Wolfsonian Foundation. Without their generous loans, this exhibition would not have been possible.
Tapei Fine Arts Museum