(re-)Claim, SOMArts

I continue to work through my backlog of shows and exhibits to review, with a focus on exhibits that are still open. One of these is (re-)Claim, which will remain at SOMArts through Friday May 28.

(re-)Claim is part of the United States of Asian American Festival sponsored the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC), a month-long festival that celebrates “the artistic accomplishments and the cultural diversity of San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities.” The exhibition features work made from discarded objects and materials explores “the redemptive process that renders an object ‘fundamentally new'”. I have seen several exhibitions this year on similar themes – perhaps a sign of the times – and in fact some of the same artists are featured in (re-)Claim, including Truong Tran and Christina Mazza. The other artists featured in this curated show include Mark Baugh-Sasaki, Kathy Fuji-Oka, Su-Chen Hung, and Judy Shintani.

We had last seen Christina Mazza’s work in the SF Recology Artists Program in January, where she also focused on found objects and materials from the San Francisco dump. For this exhibition, she created an impressive 9-foot-by-12-foot site-specific installation.

[Christina Mazza. Site-specific installation. (Click to enlarge.)]

Up close, one focuses on the individual wooden panels that compose the work, and which reminded me a little of the panels from her “Contained Spaces” series from SF Recology (a few prints from that series were included here as well). From a distance, one could better see the landscape elements and the textures that combined both geometric and natural qualities.

Truong Tran featured several works that I recognized from his solo exhibition the lost & found back in February. All of his works in that show were meticulously constructed from recycled objects and materials, many of which he found on his frequent walks around the city’s neighborhood (an activity that we at CatSynth wholeheartedly support). His pieces fit perfectly into the theme of the (re-)Claim show, where they would be seen alongside and compared to the works of the other artists. There was at least one piece that I didn’t recognize from the solo exhibition – it is shown here.

[Truong Tran. (Click to enlarge image.)]

Sculptor Mark Baugh-Sasaki took a very different approach to reclamation. His large sculptures are composed in part from manufactured or processed materials, but have a very natural quality to them, as if they are part of some imaginary ecology. In his artist statement, he refers to them as “objects that are inhabitants of or illustrate the evolving systems and interactions in this new landscape.” I also quite liked his large wooden sculpture A Form Derived from a Constructed Landscape (shown below) and his metal sculpture Relic.

[“A Form Derived from a Constructed Landscape” by Mark Baugh-Sasaki. Image from the artist. (Click to the enlarge)]

We conclude with a mixed-media piece “My Friends” by Su-Chen Hung in which a pair of figures is constructed from a variety of household objects.

[“My Friends” by Su-Chen Hung.]

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the taco trucks that were on hand for the opening. Fusion taco trucks (i.e., assembly of spices and main ingredients from other cuisines in proper taco form served out of a truck) are a mainstay of street cuisine here in San Francisco, and there were two on hand for the opening. I have enjoyed the Asian asada from Kung Fu Tacos at several past events. But I was particularly fond of the paneer and extra-spicy sauce taco from Curry Up Now.

Truong Tran: the lost & found

Another review of art from the month that has past. In mid-February, I attended an artist talk with Truong Tran, part of a month-long exhibition of his work at Mina Dresden Gallery. The exhibition was presented by our friends at Kearny Street Workshop.

The gallery itself is a narrow and starkly white space. Upon entry, one is drawn first to the illuminated shapes and color fields that dot the walls. Moving closer to a particular artwork, one begins to see the meticulous detail and the variety of elements from which it is composed.

[Truong Tran.  Installation view.  Photo courtesy of the artist. (Click to enlarge.)]

As suggested by the title of exhibition the lost & found, the pieces are created primarily from found objects and materials. Tran is a self-described collector, indeed he admit, “I was a collector long before I was an artist.” This brought to mind the artist in residence program at the SF dump that I reviewed back in January. Far from a simple presentation of found objects, he constructs large-scale works from these constituent parts, placing them into boxes and the combining these boxes into larger structures. This process of found objects, containment and construction is perhaps most apparent in tower, the largest piece in the show:

[Truong Tran, tower.  Photo courtesy of the artist.  (Click to enlarge.)]

Tran cites Joseph Cornell and Donald Judd as influences, and one can see the combination of “things contained in boxes” and large minimal geometric elements reappearing in many of the works. There is also a certain polished quality to many of pieces, particularly the illuminated works that most caught my attention. For example, the piece broken and whole, shown below looks to be a very minimalist installation with lights, rectangles and solid colors. On closer inspection, one can see that each box contains bones, presumably part of a “collection.”

[Truong Tran, broken and whole. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]

Truong Tran, a ladder to. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)

The use of found materials within a larger minimal pattern of boxes and solid colors appears in many of the works. The contained materials at times are provocative, such as the syringes that are placed in each box of a ladder to.

Tran is as established writer and author of several collections of poetry and a children’s book. With this exhibition, he is moving into a new medium of visual art and sculpture. However, his poetry is also very visual, as in his book within the margin where a single line of lower-case text is presented on each page. His other books published at Apogee Press have a similar visual quality to them. You can see some excerpts from a couple of the books here. Similarly, text enters into many of the visual pieces in the exhibition, such as the large letter “A” in tower. In both his written and visual works, there is a strong sense of things being “constructed”, and indeed he emphasized the concept of construction during his talk at the gallery.

One work that did not get mentioned during the talk but which drew my attention the invisible city. Once again, found materials (in this case, multicolored golf tees and thread) were arranged into a repeated rectangular pattern, but this time set against an image of a city skyline. While many of the pieces have an architectural quality to them (i.e., as “constructions”), this was only one where the image contained within was itself architectural.

[Truong Tran, invisible city. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]

However, there is another level of containment, as each of the buildings contains a pornographic image – I believe they are all images of men. This is another recurring theme in many of the pieces, perhaps best exemplified via boy with butterflies which at a distance appears to be a flock of hundreds of colored butterflies frozen in mid motion. Upon closer inspection, one sees that the butterflies are cut from pornographic magazines, and it is the sections of the male bodies in these images that give the butterflies their colors and patterns.

You can see some more photos of other works from the exhibition at The Lost and Found, a visual blog created by Tran. You can also see photos from the well-attended opening at KSW’s blog.