Z.Z. Wei was born Zhao Bai Wei on September 26, 1957 in Beijing, China. He graduated from the Central Institute of Art and Design in Beijing in 1984. In 1989, Z.Z. was invited by the Washington State Centennial Commission to participate in the Pacific Rim Cultural Connection Project and to be a resident artist at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington. This led to another residency in 1991 at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The following year, he was honored with the Western States Arts Federation (WEST AF)/NEA Regional Fellowship for Visual Artists. Then, in 1993, Z.Z. had an exhibit at the Charles and Emma Frey Museum, Seattle, WA.
During this time, Z.Z. exhibited work outside of the Northwest by participating in the Autumn Salon, Paris; the "New Form" Chicago International Exhibition; "First Exhibition of Modern Art", Beijing, China; and the Los Angeles International Art Fair. Upon his first arrival to the Northwest, Z.Z. Wei could not believe the beauty spread before him. His first experiences in the Pacific Northwest were visual revelations. Feeling completely liberated from the stringent boundaries placed on him since birth, he embarked on an artistic odyssey in a quest to paint powerful images of rural America.
The melancholy meandering through the backroads of the Northwest countryside has set a strong tone for collectors throughout the international art market. A misty street, a rolling wheat field, a falling leaf, shadows dancing across the side of a barn, and an old car on a lonely road are all images conveyed by Z.Z. with such vigor and vitality that the spiritual nature of their simplicity come to the fore. In the years since Z.Z. arrived in Washington, his journey of discovery has been focused upon not only painting the Northwest but on becoming a true Northwest artist. In viewing the paintings of Z.Z. Wei and feeling the warmth of their expression, one wonders whether he has adopted the Pacific Northwest as his homeland, or has it adopted him as its laureate.
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As a Washington native and one of the Northwest School’s “big four,” Guy Anderson spent his entire career capturing the region’s natural beauty in his signature abstract expressionist style. In 1929, he traveled to the Tiffany estate in Long Island to study art, where he met the artist Morris Graves. The two began a friendship that would eventually give rise to the Northwest School of art.
Upon returning to Washington, Anderson taught at the Spokane Art Center as part of the WPA’s Federal Art Project; and worked at the Seattle Art Museum, where he gained an affinity for Asian arts and antiquities. Anderson’s mature work is identifiable by its rich, earth tone color palette, and a rhythmic, almost lyrical abstract expressionism. The influence of Asian aesthetics is evident in his work, as are other Eastern modalities and global mythological allusions.
Anderson is famous for using a wide variety of media in his work, from paint and canvas, to lumber and found objects. His work is held in numerous public and private collections, and the artist has received numerous commendations, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Tiffany Foundation Award.
Blending surrealism and abstract expressionism, Kenneth Callahan emerged as one of the Pacific Northwest’s most important cultural figures in the 1930s. The artist made several trips down the west coast, stopping to capture the landscapes and people of California, Mexico, and Central America.
By 1932, Callahan was Curator of the Seattle Art Museum, a post he would hold for the next two decades. Between 1935 and 1945, he was commissioned to paint several murals in Washington state, under President Roosevelt’s Treasury Section of Fine Arts. Along with Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Guy Anderson (1906-1998), and Morris Graves (1910-2001), Callahan founded the Northwest School – a loose affiliation of artists, sharing a similar color palette and subject matter, operating out of the Seattle region in the 1930s and 40s.
He has exhibited across the country, from San Francisco to Chicago, Philadelphia to Washington DC. Today, his work can be found in the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, Washington State University, University of Washington, Seattle Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum, among others.
Mark Tobey is widely considered the most important of the “Big Four” artists from the mid-20th century’s Northwest School of painting. Born in Centerville, Wisconsin, Tobey took to art at a young age. By 1911, at only twenty years old, the artist was already working as an illustrator for McCall’s in New York. Soon, Tobey was exhibiting throughout the city.
In 1922, he moved to Seattle, where he studied Eastern art and philosophy as he began to explore what would become his signature style of abstract expressionism, which he called “white writing.” Along with artists Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, and Morris Graves, Tobey founded the Northwest School – recognizable for its rich use of the region’s iconography, mixed with Asian and Native American stylistic elements, combined to form a unique aesthetic of rhythmic abstraction.
Since the early 20th century, Tobey’s work has been exhibited around the world, including the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, and Paris’ famed Louvre. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including First prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh; The Venice Biennale Painting Prize; The Guggenheim International Award; and the title of Commander, Arts and the Letters of the French Government.