At a time when most American manufacturing has moved offshore and the question of origin is so hotly disputed (e.g. the debate about President Obama’s birthplace), where something is made—and by whom—remains a basis for perceived value. Using the Country of Origin label as a metaphorical starting point, this exhibition brings together 10 artists currently working in the U.S. who were born or grew up elsewhere. Their work blends an American reference point with a global consciousness that comes from outside the Euro-American canon; it is “Made in the USA” from a perspective that resists correlation to a fixed point on the traditional world map.
Grounded in a celebration of technique and a strong understanding of materials, this group of artists distills disparate cultural influences in the objecthood of the work itself, combining impossible geographies into a singular entity: the eye of a storm around which swirl questions of identity, formalism, and beauty. For some the work emerges from a meditative and repetitive motion that offers a retreat from language, a portal to a wordless space where the ego dissolves into the labor of making; for others the work represents a kind of map, a visualization of psychic space that transcends time and place; for another, meaning is derived through a reinterpretation of oil painting. The work is personal and realized through a studio-based practice of trial and error, embodying the ever-evolving process of becoming.
With 2043 set by the U.S. census as the year ethnic minorities become the new majority, the line between mainstream and Other continues to blur. This liminal space—which defies classification in a dichotomous culture of native/foreign, Republican/Democrat, us/them — will increasingly be the place we all inhabit. It’s not that we’re all becoming the same in a new “post-racial” era; it’s that our ability to decode the full spectrum of difference will become more refined. As the work in this show suggests, rather than seeing the world in terms of us versus them, learning the gradient language of Now will open up new ways of understanding and navigating through our shifting place in the new New World.
A full-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with an essay by Herb Tam, curator and director of exhibitions at the Museum of Chinese in America.
Image credits from left: Ignacio González-Lang, Sweeter than Salt, 2014, recycled U.S. Marines and Army uniforms, beads, U.S. coins, glass, silver thread, crochet, lace, metal bells, 40”x37”x6.5”; Armita Raafat, Untitled, 2014/2015, resin, plastic, paint, fabric, mirrors, sumi ink, 38”x9”x18”; Arthur Simms, Beaver Stick, 2010/2015, feathers, wood, wire, screws, rock, glue, 77”x30”x25”; Nicole Awai, Vista 4: Emerging Properties B – Midnight Cami, 2014, acrylic, nail polish, resin, charcoal, bubble wrap, flocking, poly mesh and graphite on synthetic paper, 22”x18”.