Perimeter: We Live Here Now
Perimeter: We Live Here Now
America has many stories. One that reoccurs throughout our history is the story of individuals and families who uproot themselves from their home countries and come here. Many come because they believe that this country offers new opportunities and a different life. Many immigrants who settle in Portland live on the perimeter of the city, in Beaverton and Hillsboro, outer southeast or Vancouver. Many enter American society in part through higher education, very often at our community colleges. These are the observations that led to Perimeter: We Live Here Now.
Perimeter: We Live Here Now is an exhibition of the work of eleven artists who were born and raised outside of the United States, all of whom now live and work in Oregon. The Art Gym is presenting five of the artists: Sang-ah Choi from Korea, Horatio Law from Hong Kong, Akihiko Miyoshi and Motoya Nakamura from Japan and Ying Tan from China.
Six of the eleven artists will present work at four community colleges during winter term: Baba Wagué Diakité from Mali at PCC Sylvania,Yuji Hiratsuka from Japan at PCC Cascade, Una Kim from Korea and Petra Sairanen from Lapland at PCC Rock Creek, and Yoshihiro Kitai from Japan and Kartz Ucci from Canada at Clark College in Vancouver. My thanks for their respective exhibitions to curators Mark Smith, Sam Morgan, Prudence Roberts and Blake Shell.
Ying Tan grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. After completing art school, she spent 14 months doing farm labor in a re-education camp before she was allowed to attend graduate school at the Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing. In 1990, Tan came to the U.S. as a visiting scholar; she now teaches at the University of Oregon.
The Art Gym is projecting two of Ying Tan’s videos: Rain: a Visual Quartet (2006) and Ebb and Flow (2008). Many of Tan’s works present moving images of fluids: rain, ink, waves and surf. Ebb and Flow resembles the flow of Chinese brush painting (which the artist has studied and taught in China), but is constructed digitally on the computer.
Rain: a Visual Quartet was made after Tan had lived in Oregon ten years and had begun to feel more at home. Tan changes the depth of field to alternately focus on drops of rain running down windows to the landscapes seen dimly through windows covered with rivulets of rain. The artist collected the imagery for the video in Oregon, China and on a train traveling from Italy to Austria. The soundtrack combines the sounds of rain with excerpts from September Elegy, a composition by the artist’s husband David Crumb.
Horatio Hung Yuan Law
Horatio Hung Yuan Law was born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents. He moved to the New York with his family at the age of 16, earned his first college degree in the sciences and was headed toward a career in medicine when he discovered art.
The Art Gym is exhibiting Law’s 2007 dual channel projection Caught Between the Stripes. For this work, Law recorded the sight and sound of a large American flag rippling and flapping in the wind. Two versions of the flag video—one in full color (red, white and blue) and one in shades of gray— are projected onto opposite sides of a hanging scrim. Visitors are able to walk in front of the projectors and cast their shadows onto the scrim, causing the projection from the opposite side to show through (gray silhouettes interrupting color and vice versa). Caught Between the Stripes calls attention to the fact that our actions influence and change how national symbols are seen and viewed.
Akihiko Miyoshi was born in Japan and has lived at length in several countries, including Japan, Argentina and the United States. His initial field of undergraduate and graduate study was computer engineering with a focus on real-time and computer operating systems. As Miyoshi explained in a recent conversation, his journey has been less about leaving one country for another and more about migrating from computer engineering to art, and more specifically to photography.
The Art Gym is presenting digital photographs, including works from his 18% Gray and Gray Card series. In his writings about these series Miyoshi emphasizes his interest in addressing the norms and standards of photographic practice. A gray card is a tool that photographers use to produce consistent exposure. However, gray is neither colorless nor neutral; it is made up of the primary colors red, green and blue (RGB). Miyoshi’s photographs of a computer screen displaying monochromatic gray images separated into RGB colors reveal a variety of colorful moiré patterns rather than monochrome sameness.
Like Horatio Law’s changing relationship of color to gray in Caught Between the Stripes, and Sang-ah Choi’s use of gray for images of herself, her husband, Mickey and Minnie in the otherwise colorful Welcome to America, Miyoshi asks us to consider the subtleties and complexity of the color gray and the meaning of its use in art.
Sang-ah Choi grew up and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art before moving to the U.S. in 1997.
Choi’s Welcome to America (2007) conveys the mixed messages and emotions she experienced in applying for a green card, the identity card for permanent residents who are not citizens of the United States. In the painting, the identities of Choi and her husband are obscured as the two find themselves depicted as monochrome cartoon characters, overdrawn with coloring book style outlines of Mayflower era pilgrims, dwarfed by oversized suit wearing Mickey and Minnie Mouse and surrounded by a landscape of brightly colored products and corporate logos.
In other works, Choi draws on her knowledge of Asian and Western art traditions and theory to articulate her response to American culture. In her 2008 Transcontinental Flower and Bird Painting—New York to Oregon, Choi interprets her 2005 cross-country drive to make a new home in Oregon by referencing traditional Korean flower and bird genre painting.
The Art Gym is showing selected photographs from Motoya Nakamura’s Being Pulled series. Nakamura moved from Japan to the United States at the age of 26 and like many immigrants, feels the constant pull of two cultures. The artist lives with his wife and sons in Portland, and they travel to Japan to see his family when they can.
Many of the Being Pulled photographs chronicle Nakamura’s sons’ childhood as he attempts to be their bridge between two cultures and multiple generations. In one image, they sit awkwardly at a formal dinner in Japan, dressed in clothing they would never wear at home in the U.S. In another, one son is shown riding public transportation with his grandmother and grandfather, each absorbed in a separate world. Back in Portland, Nakamura takes them to Oaks Park, its vintage rides reminding him of his own childhood outings with his grandmother to a favorite amusement park in Japan. Many immigrants describe a sense of living in between, of being suspended between two cultures, or as Nakamura expresses it, being pulled.
Curated by: Terri Hopkins
On View: January 10 – March 20, 2011