Ying Li

June 27, 2020   -   July 26, 2020

Ying Li’s Alterity

Pamela Salisbury, June 2020

The opportunity to open a gallery in Hudson recently presented itself and I jumped. One of my first calls was to Ying Li. We met at her studio on 28th Street to look at new paintings, but first there was lunch. Ying set a little table by the window, and prepared a meal that, like her paintings, revealed complex pairings: spicy and sweet, hot and cold, familiar but new.  Ying looks like she’s throwing things together, but she knows exactly what she’s doing. Her culinary and artistic control is extraordinary.

Ying works from perception, almost always on site. Her mark making is fast then slow, gentle, furious, insistent here, quiet there.  Her use of color describes the world around us, its fragrance and shape, the weight of the air, or light on a leaf.  Holding it all together is a rigor that speaks to decades of painting, and a discipline that goes back to her academic training in Communist China following the Cultural Revolution. After years in a village labor camp, then at University, Ying spent entire semesters (in between mandatory military training) working on one drawing from one plaster cast…with a 6H pencil. 

Ying emigrated to the United States in the early 1980’s and completed her graduate degree (MFA) at Parsons School of Design. She has held the post of Professor of Fine Arts and Department Chair at Haverford College since 1997. Residencies take Ying around the globe and she has painted mountaintops from Telluride to the Sierras of Almeria Province.   

I have so much admiration for Ying Li. Her spirit is alternately funny and fierce, and the very air around her vibrates with life.  To spend time with one of her paintings is to spend time with Ying, and to be reminded of all the things we’d like to be: curious, courageous, direct.  When I opened the Gallery, I hurled myself into the great unknown. Ying’s paintings—their beauty and importance—tether me to the task at hand. This is what it’s all about. 


Ying Li’s exhibition, Alterity, includes recent oil paintings which explore the rural and urban landscape. Li has exhibited at Centro Incontri Umani, Ascona, Switzerland; New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture (concurrent exhibition with Eve Aschheim); Lohin Geduld Gallery, NY; Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY; Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Dartmouth College, NH. Li’s work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, and Art in America. Born in Beijing, China, Ying Li graduated from Anhui Teachers University (1974-77) where she taught from 1977-83. Currently, she is the Phyllis Koshland Professor of Fine Arts and Department Chair at Haverford College, PA. Li immigrated to the United States in 1983 and received an MFA from Parsons School of Design, NY in 1987.


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