Wen-Ying Tsai was a groundbreaking sculptor, and one of the first Chinese-born artists to rise in New York’s modern art scene. When he died in 2013, Tsai left behind a career’s-worth of material, including hundreds of aging, delicate works in need of restoration. Forms of Balance follows his adult son, London Tsai, as London struggles to maintain his father’s archive, while paving his own path as artist and father. While Forms of Balance honors Wen-Ying Tsai’s profound contributions to the modern art world, more importantly, the film offers a more global contemplation on legacy – what, and whom, we leave behind. The film uniquely contrasts the public achievements of a great artist with the private life of an absentee father, through the gentle and loving lens of his own son.
The film begins in a busy studio – crowded with loud, motorized sculptures. London appears, packing a foot-high cluster of metal tubes, welded together, into a wooden crate. There’s no good way to pack this thing, and he’s a bit frustrated, but good-natured. Bent over at another metallic, moving sculpture, he addresses the camera directly, explaining that everything he’s doing today is to get ready for an exhibition in Germany, where, for the first time, he will exhibit his own work alongside the work of his father’s. Forms of Balance weaves between present-day scenes such as this one, and archival material from the Tsai family’s past, culminating in a scene from the exhibition.
The film illuminates the labor behind the glorified works of a celebrated artist, and captures London’s perceived shortcomings in his father’s shadow, and his journey in balancing his own identity with his inheritance.