Literati: From Manuscript to Artwork explores the work of Yunnan artists Yu Jian and Ma Yun, using their personal notes, drawings, manuscripts and collected objects as a lens onto their creative thoughts and processes, presented alongside the poetry and photography of Yu Jian, and the oil paintings of Ma Yun.

As curator Jeff Crosby says, “Generally, in art and exhibitions, we deal with ‘official artworks,’ highly polished objects that are selected specifically for public consumption. We see the artist, but we are only given a selective view, what the artist has specifically chosen to show us. Drafts, notes, manuscripts and sketches are something quite different. When making them, the artist is often speaking only to himself, privately working out a problem or exploring a new idea that may or may not eventually emerge in a more public ‘official artwork.’ This process is often described as ‘thinking on paper.'”

The lives and works of these two artists embody the ancient literati spirit in many ways, and their preparatory manuscripts, much like the draft notes that are revered today as classics of ancient calligraphy, provide us with a window to their soul.

The exhibition also features an interactive sound booth installation that invites viewers to record themselves reading Yu Jian’s poetry and become part of a future video artwork.

The exhibition has been extended, and will remain on view through March 2020.


  • Artists: Yu Jian, Ma Yun
  • Curator: Jeff Crosby
  • Duration: November 16, 2019 - March 29, 2020