Born in Chengdu in 1943, David Diao moved to America in 1955 and has lived in New York for nearly sixty years. Profoundly influenced by the New York School of abstract art, Diao is known for his keen ability to translate content as form and minimal compositions, while his paintings have been characterized by smooth surfaces and solidly painted sonorous color achieved by repeated passes with palette knives. Reflecting on the Modernist canon through his early works from the 1960s to the 1970s, Diao's practice shifted radically in the mid-80s. The artist began making references to the history of modernism, combining his radical formalism with avant-garde iconography, identity politics, as well as autobiography.
“Switching Station” (1985) was created during the period Diao was investigating the roots of European avant-garde with particular emphasis to Suprematism and Constructivism. In this piece, he brings Russian and American modes of abstraction together—the square and the cross come from Kazimir Malevich, while the vertical bars (prison) reference Robert Motherwell’s striped paintings. Behind them Diao also presents the black silhouette of two suprematist works by Malevich, which is based on the renowned installation photograph of “The Last Exhibition of Futurist Painting 0,10”.