recent works by the New York-based artist and publisher Paul Chan (b. 1973).
Its title is drawn from an essay by Chan called Odysseus as Artist (2017), which
pivots around the term polytropos.
The word, which appears in The Odyssey’s very first line, is frequently attached to Odysseus, and holds many meanings: wily, inventive, infinitely cunning. For Chan, polytropos is critical not only to how artists work, but to why art matters today. Odysseus and the Bathers was an exhibition in motion. At its heart are the ‘Bathers’: moving bodies, fabric figures which lean and twist and flail. These are, Chan says, breathing artworks, which create different varieties and shades of motion. The artist sees these turbulent sculptures as acting like moving images, but rendered in three dimensions. The exhibition was also punctuated by unstretched canvases, each hanging on a wall mounted rack, like beach towels drying in hotel bathrooms. The works are Matisse-like approximations in blues and pinks and yellows, painted in bright off-the-shelf colours. The figures in these works all derive from the patterns that Chan uses to make the ‘Bathers’. Crucially, none of the forms or colours overlap, touch or integrate (“Just like America”, as Chan notes).
Paul Chan (born Hong Kong 1973) is an artist who lives in New York. He is the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize in 2014, a biennial award honouring artists who have made a visionary contribution to contemporary art. A survey entitled Selected Works was mounted by Schaulager in Basel, Switzerland (April 11-October 19, 2014). His work has been exhibited widely in many international shows including: Plato in LA, the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, 2018; Documenta 13, Kassel, 2012; Before The Law, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 2011-12; Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009; Medium Religion, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008; Traces du sacrê, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2008; 16th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, 2008; 10th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, 2007; and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, 2006. Solo exhibitions include: My Laws are My Whores, The Renaissance Society and the University of Chicago, Chicago, 2009; Paul Chan: Three Easy Pieces, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, 2008; Paul Chan: The 7 Lights, Serpentine Gallery, London and New Museum, New 2007–2008.
In 2002, Chan was a part of Voices in the Wilderness, an American aid group that broke U.S. sanctions and federal law by working in Baghdad before the U.S. invasion and occupation. In 2004 he garnered police attention for The People’s Guide to the Republican National Convention, a free map distributed throughout New York to help protesters to get in or out of the way of the RNC. In 2007, Chan collaborated with the Classical Theatre of Harlem and Creative Time to produce a site-specific outdoor presentation of Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. Chan’s essays and interviews have appeared in Artforum, frieze, Flash Art, October, Tate etc, Parkett, Texte Zur Kunst, Bomb, and other magazines and journals. Chan founded the independent press Badlands Unlimited in 2010
Exhibition curated by Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary