In 1957, Zao Wou-Ki left Paris, and traveled to New York, a centre of post-war avant-garde art and culture. At the introduction of Pierre Soulages, Zao Wou-Ki met Samuel Kootz, who had founded Kootz Gallery in New York in 1945. In the post-war period, New York had become the world’s creative centre and leader of the avant-garde, and Abstract Expressionism condensed the unrestrained, bold, and innovative spirit of American culture. Deeply inspired by this spirit, Zao approached Eastern culture in a new way and changed his painting style. This change in 1959 inspired the beginning of Zao’s Hurricane Period, recognized as one of his creative peaks. 15.02.65 is a classic work from this period.
Swift, surging, and scribbled ink lines rush into the painting from the left and right, converging and colliding in the centre. Bright yellow tones, like golden beams, illuminate a work exploding with energy. Through the wild brushwork in 15.02.65, the viewers can envision Zao Wou-Ki in the prime of his life standing in front of this massive no. 120 canvas with paintbrush in hand, poised to begin wrestling with the painting.
This piece is typical of the works that Zao Wou-Ki made during his collaboration with New York’s Kootz Gallery in the 1960s; it was also the most important painting in his 1965 solo show at the gallery. Kootz Gallery, which seldom published catalogues, chose this work as the focal point for this exhibition’s promotional materials and printed a leaflet, indicating how much Samuel Kootz appreciated Zao Wou-Ki and his work, as well as his importance in the international art world.