In 1964, the painter Zao Wou-Ki stated: “It is not easy to break free. Everybody is bound by a tradition—I, by two.” Zao (1920-2013) was a Chinese-born artist who became a French citizen, and who immersed himself in both ancient Chinese and European Modernist painting practices. He sought and sometimes succeeded to fuse these disparate influences into an inimitable hybrid abstraction that touches on Eastern and Western aesthetic traditions yet hovers, elusively, outside of them.

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'Signs in Motion’ (1957), by Zao Wou-Ki. PHOTO:HERBERT F. JOHNSON MUSEUM OF ART/CORNELL UNIVERSITY