Meet Jiannan Wu, Tombolo's Artist in Residence. Jiannan also happens to be Tombolo's very first sculptor -- thankfully he was gentle with us.

Meet Jiannan Wu

One of nearly 350 applicants to the 2023 Tombolo Artist Residency program, Jiannan captivated us with his dioramic sculptures and reliefs.

Jiannan's work compresses spatial volume, deftly skewing the viewer's perspective. We were particularly attracted to his elaborate scenes that expose the absurdity of contemporary life (at Tombolo, we're no strangers to musings on the absurdity of our own existence).

Selecting Jiannan pushed us out of our comfort zone. We wanted to embrace the concept of 'soft' sculpture in wearable form.

We accomplished this with Jiannan through a number of new techniques: padding appliquéd figures to bring them into three dimensions, incorporating structural elements like silk knot closures that double as puppet poles held by dragon dancers, and combining fabrics of different textures in a single garment to create a more varied landscape.

The result: two new shirts made in creative partnership with Jiannan.

The 'Jiannan Wu x Tombolo' Wood Dragon Cabana was designed in anticipation of the Year of the Dragon. It's based on the banner works of Jiannan's exhibition at our Flagship Store -- 'The Death of Dragon' and 'Dragonland' -- which together depict a dragon's violent's demise followed by its commercial resurrection as the basis for a theme park.

The shirt is imaginary merch from Dragonland: two Tombolo shirts even feature in miniature within Jiannan's sculpture depicting the theme park.

The second shirt is limited edition (150 pieces) and made-to-order. The 'Jiannan Wu x Tombolo' Baths Cabana is based on a work by Jiannan that explores Chinese bathing culture. It's a great example of Jiannan's knack for compressing space to intricately compose self-contained scenes. 

The shirt features two appliquéd bathers interacting with the shirt's pockets: one diving in and the other lounging. It also features two fabrics: a linen base as well as terrycloth shawl collar and cuffs.

Jiannan's Artist Residency culminates in an installation of his recent work at our flagship store in New York City.

Entitled 'The Death of Dragon,' the exhibition includes 8 distinct works: each a world unto itself featuring a diverse cast of characters -- politicians, bathers, film personalities alongside characters from the artist’s own life.

The show will run at 208 Mott St. in NYC from Thursday, Feb 8 through Thursday, Feb 15. Curated by Charlotte Grussing. Inquire for more details or artwork pricing.


Jiannan Wu (b. 1990 Dialan, China) lives, works, and teaches in New York City. He received his BFA in Sculpture from China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China  and his MFA from New York Academy of Art. Recent solo exhibitions include Carnival at Leo Gallery, Shanghai, China and Collisions at Time Arts Gallery, New York, New York. His work has been shown at Art Fairs internationally including, ART021 Shanghai, Art Miami and Art New York.


Tombolo's Artist Residency Program offers the chance for emerging artists to have their artwork feature on our shirts. Tombolo offers a stipend, mentorship, and a (zero commission) NYC exhibition at our flagship store -- along with the opportunity to collaborate on two custom shirts: one inspired by an existing work and a second inspired by a piece created during the Residency itself. The artist also receives a royalty tied to shirt sales.

* Artist Residency 2024 applications are open! *

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