|With a wide-ranging and perhaps overly eclectic display of various media, “CalAsia” is a group exhibition that showcases over sixty years of work by multiple generations of California Asian artists. This exhibit, curated by Chip Tom, exemplifies the concept of the “Pacific Rim,” with Western artists looking East; but that is an issue with increasing irrelevance. About the only thematic link between the various works is that the artists are all Asian and reside in California. Though the gallery states the work of the younger artists on view relates to cultural assimilation, it seems to be a given and hardly a point worth belaboring with art as immediate and generally strong as this. Who cares about the ethnicity of the artists if the work stands on its own?
An installation by Aragna Ker is designed to illustrate the importance of empty space in Asian art. A cutout figure of a kimono-clad woman holding an umbrella is perched on a table. She makes obeisance to a series of cutout wall-mounted clouds across the floor. With their capriciously tumbling outlines and lyrical forms, the clouds reference calligraphic painting--the equivocal reference to honoring an Asian past is left open enough, but it is obvious. Arthur Ou’s powerful installation, titled “Earth Works,” is contemporary in the extreme and highly dramatic. It suggests a calligraphic lyricism that is overwhelmed by writhing forces of nature.
Tyrus Wong, born in 1910, is the oldest among the artists exhibiting. Wong has had an illustrious career as an artist at Walt Disney Company, illustrator for Hallmark and Reader’s Digest, and porcelain painter for Winfield Pottery. The piece here, titled “Horse Plate,” is evidence of a calligraphic mastery of the brush that continues with great force even now. The tactile presence of the brush and the spontaneity of calligraphy are also present in Bay Area artist Ruth Asawa’s painting “Plane Trees.” [Asawa was recently featured in solo exhibitions at the Japanese American National Museum and Tobey C. Moss GalleryEd]
Aragna Ker, "When the Time Comes
(Do You Still Know the Fragility of
Existence?), 2006, mixed media.
Arthur Ou, “Untitled (Earth-
works 1),” 2007, selenium
toned gelatin silver print.
Tyrus Wong, "Prancing
Horse," c. 1950, painted