Posts tagged ‘stephanie syjuco’

Identity: Chico & Chang and Stephanie Syjuco

Hipster Pig, Pablo Cristi, 2011, plaster, denim, fake gold, and wood

In the late 1990s I vividly recall visiting a class at UC Berkeley to show my work, after which one of the students, a nice Asian American kid, came up to me and said, “I really liked your videos, but are you really interested in all of that identity stuff?” Nearly 15 years later, my students at SF State see Jabbawockeez, and Harry Shum Jr. on their Tivo all the time, and Far East Movement is topping the charts, yet simultaneously they’re dealing with Hollywood’s stubborn refusal to abandon whitewashing (Akira, anyone?) and the teabaggers retro-paranoid siege mentality, while some people continue to deny that Mickey Rooney’s yellowface turn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s is racist. So I’m not completely convinced that identity politics are obsolete, and I’m happy to see young artists of color still examining issues of race, culture, and representation.

Chico & Chang, 2011, installation view, Intersection 5M, San Francisco

Two recent San Francisco shows look at Multiculturalism 2.0. Intersection 5M’s newest show, Chico & Chang: A Look at the Impact of Latino and Asian Cultures on California’s Visual Landscape, deals with this crazy transitional time we’re living in, examining the inexorable demographics shifts in this country and the unexpected ways that U.S. culture is changing to reflect that shift. Organized by Intersection’s indomitable visual artists program director Kevin Chen, this chock full of energy and good information and includes several choice tidbits that bring multiculturalism into the current millennium.

Right up front is Pablo Christi’s clever and arresting Hipster Pig. A life-size mounted patchwork denim hog’s head with gilded chicken-foot necklace, Christi’s sculpture critiques the new snout-to-tail foodie movement that fetishes consuming every bit of the butchered animal.

I immediately recognized the chicken foot adorning the pig’s neck since my dad loved sucking down those bones long before Anthony Bourdain made it trendy. Likewise my grandmother’s stockpot was full of necks, wings, feet, and chicken heads, which horrified her grandchildren but made for excellent soup. Who knew that she and Pops were such culinary trailblazers? I’m sure they was just trying to save a buck, whereas the foodies that Christi critiques are making bank selling bone marrow and fish cheeks to gullible upscale consumers. Funny how poor people eating fish stomach don’t make it onto The Food Network very often.

Carry On, Ana Teresa Fernandez, 2011, detail, mixed media

Ana Teresa Fernandez’ installation Carry On possesses an immediate visual appeal. Fernandez has created a kitchen tableau with all objects, including floor, walls, furnishings, food packaging, clothes, ironing board, and crucifix, covered in the fabric from the plaid plastic shopping bags usually found on the arms of the ladies on the 30 Stockton and the 14 Mission. Not unlike applying an “ethnic plastic bag” filter onto a photoshopped picture, the immediately recognizable pattern of the installation’s surfaces cleverly underscores Chico & Chang’s curatorial premise. By pointing out the ubiquity of said plastic bags in both Asian and Latin American communities, Fernandez’ project speaks volumes about the Asian/Latino cultural intersections and iterates Asian and Latino influences on U.S. culture at large.

Charlene Tan’s Silent Labor investigates a more poignant topic, examining an overlooked aspect of immigrant life in the U.S., as well as the global impact of our hyperconsumerist society.

Tan notes in her artist’s statement,

When I was 14 a family friend gave us an old traditional Chinese-style table. We swooned because my family had just bought a new home and we needed furniture. As we unpacked the table piece by piece my younger brother and I noticed handprints in dust on the finished surfaces. Thinking nothing of it, we chirped about the small size of the hands, thinking it was an errant child playing in the storeroom. Then, we saw small handprints in wood stain and shellac. Our hearts sank when we realized the hands smaller than ours built our table. Silent anger laced with guilt took over; we could be these unknown workers.

Silent Labor, Charlene Tan, 2011, (sculpture on floor), wood, mirror plexi, shellac, latent print powder

In her piece Tan references this experience, replicating a black IKEA-style table under which she has placed a large mirror. Nothing amiss is evident on the tabletop, but below, visible only in the mirror’s reflection, are small handprints on the underside of the table. Tan’s piece is a subtle commentary on the hidden human cost of the cheap imported goods that power the U.S. economy.

RAIDERS: International Booty, Bountiful Harvest, 2011, Stephanie Syjuco, installation view, archival Epson photo prints mounted on lasercut wood, hardware, platforms, crates

Just up the street at Catherine Clark Gallery, Stephanie Syjuco’s  “RAIDERS: International Booty, Bountiful Harvest (Selections from the A_____ A__ M_____), is an outstanding prank on art collecting, orientalism, and intellectual property. Syjuco downloads reproductions of collectibles from the Asian Art Museum’s website, blows them up life-size, and mounts them on propped-up plywood backing. Her sly commentary is simultaneously visually appealing, intellectually stimulating, and culturally relevant.

As a refugee of 1990s multiculturalism I’m glad to see both Chico & Chang andSyjuco’s work moving the practice forward. Both shows forgo being simple cultural celebration or definition in their astute, relevant, 21st century views of racial and cultural representation.

Bonus beats: Identity, by X-Ray Spex, with the late, lamented Poly Styrene on lead vocals, ca. 1978

Chico & Chang: A Look at the Impact of Latino and Asian Cultures on California’s Visual Landscape

June 11 – Aug 20, 2011

Intersection for the Arts
925 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Gallery Hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 12-6pm, FREE

(415) 626-2787 x109

Stephanie Syjuco: Raiders

June 4 – July 16, 2011

Cathering Clark Gallery

150 Minna Street

San Francisco CA 94105

July 17, 2011 at 7:07 am Leave a comment

Give Me Everything: Hasan Elahi, Gaye Chan, Stephanie Syjuco, and the New Gift Economy

Hiding In Plain Sight, Hasan Elahi, 2011, Intersection 5M

Did a mini gallery crawl a couple weeks ago and saw three interesting shows that got me to thinking all about commodification, ownership, late capitalism and various other pet topics. I started out at SFMOMA’s First Tuesday–my press pass somehow lapsed last year and I haven’t been able to bring myself to shell out the double-digit entrance fee to the museum, so I was happy to take advantage of the gratis admission. I wanted to check out Stephanie Syjuco’s awesome Shadowshop project one more time (as a participating artist I was able to get into the members’ opening for free back in November) to buy a print of one of Indigo Som’s Chinese Restaurant series. Syjuco’s simple yet brilliant concept gave local artists a place to sell their wares within the confines of a mainstream art institution and hundreds, if not thousands, of items from postcards to paintings to objets d’art (including DVDs of The Oak Park Story–only $25!) were on sale in a compact fifth floor space on the way to SFMOMA’s posh rooftop sculpture gallery. All proceeds went directly to the artists and Syjuco’s insertion into the museum of an intermediary-free site for sales cleverly undercut the art world’s hypercommodified system of exchange. Plus it was a good place to pick up some excellent deals on outstanding work by San Francisco’s best artists.

Shadowshop, Stephanie Syjuco, 2011, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Since it was free and since I had a bit of time on my hands I also popped into Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and The Camera Since 1870 and checked out Nan Goldin’s famous photo series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, here presented as a large-scale slide show projected on the wall of the gallery. It was fun and entertaining to revisit this seminal piece and to see New York’s hipster underground in all its naked, lustful glory screened huge on the SFMOMA wall. Goldin’s piece has aged relatively well since it’s 1986 debut, though its soundtrack and its almost exclusively Caucasian denizens were decidedly 20th century. I was especially amused to see the slide show’s coda, which declared that each version of the limited edition show was unique, its scarcity thus insuring its worth on the art market.

Hiding In Plain Sight, Hasan Elahi, 2011, Intersection 5m

SFMOMA’s emphasis on the unique specialness of the individual art work contrasted beautifully with the anti-commodification concept of Hasan Elahi’s excellent multimedia installation, Hiding In Plain Sight, at Intersection for the Arts’ brand-spanking new digs, Intersection 5M, just down the street in the former Chronicle building at 5th and Mission. After Elahi was detained by Homeland Security in 2002 on suspicion of terrorist activities he began obsessively photographing his everyday activities and uploading the snapshots to his website,

A wall of small monitors in the installation at Intersection showed random images, constantly downloaded from Elahi’s server, of the thousands of photos of toilets, airports, takeout dinners, cups of coffee, and other bland, quotidian details of Elahi’s everyday existence. A bank of flat-screen monitors on an adjacent wall scrolled Elahi’s daily credit card transactions. The volume and detail of the images and information, uploaded daily by Elahi, document his every move and cleverly defeat any attempt to imply illicit activities by Elahi. As he notes in an interview with Wired magazine, “I’ve discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away.” Elahi also made a quick guest appearance on the Colbert Report where he and Stephen amiably mixed it up.

Free Grindz, Gaye Chan, 2011, Southern Exposure Gallery

I then hopped over to the Mission to Southern Exposure’s On The Ground exhibit. Curated by SF artist Weston Teruya, the show includes several pieces by artists dealing with location and place. Once again issues of capitalism and commodification cropped up, notably in Hawai’i-based artist Gaye Chan’s Free Grindz, an element of Chan’s ongoing project Eating In Public, which explores issues around land use and centers on retaking the commons from both private and public interests. In Chan’s installation at Southern Exposure she presented a brief history of various edible weeds found on O’ahu, along with seeds, recipes and identifying photos, all displayed on the expanded shipping crate in which the materials traveled from Hawai’i. Viewers were free to take as many seeds and recipes as they liked, and to (literally) disseminate the plants and information without cost.

Both Elahi’s freely accessible photos and Chan’s gift economy seed distribution project are stark counterpoints to the art-market imposed preciousness of Nan Goldin’s slide show at SFMOMA. While both Elahi images and Chan’s seeds are available to anyone who wants them, Goldin’s can be seen only by those who can afford the museum’s admission, and owned only by those wealthy enough to purchase one of her limited editions. Although Goldin’s work is still aesthetically relevant, its means of distribution is decidedly archaic. In this era of the democratization of information and the erosion of intellectual property rights, will the art world still be able to control access to the objects and images that drive its market?


through Sun. May 1, 2011


151 Third Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

Monday – Tuesday: 11:30am -5pm
Wednesday: closed
Thursday: 11:30am – 8:45pm
Friday – Sunday: 11:30am – 5pm

Hiding In Plain Sight – A Solo Exhibition by Hasan Elahi

through Sat. Ap. 23, 2011

Intersection 5M

925 Mission Street (@ 5th)

San Francisco, 94103.

Tuesday-Saturday, 12-6PM. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

On The Ground

through Sat. Ap. 23, 2011

Southern Exposure Gallery

3030 20th Street (@ Alabama)

San Francisco, CA 94110

Tuesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm

April 21, 2011 at 6:15 am Leave a comment

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