"Chinese House, Splendid China Theme Park, Orlando, Florida" 2008, 40" x 60" from the series "Wonton Lust (The Chinaman as we see him)"
Present Tense Biennial
May 1 - August 23, 2009
Present Tense Biennial
An exhibition of artwork that focuses on modern Chinese culture by over twenty young, contemporary artists
Curated by Kevin B. Chen
May 1 - August 23, 2009
Reception: Saturday, May 2, 2009, 1 to 3pm
Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
750 Kearny Street, 3rd Floor
Inside the Hilton Hotel between Clay & Washington Streets
San Francisco, CA 94108
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10am to 4pm
Sundays, 12 to 4pm
Media Coverage for
PRESENT TENSE Biennial: Chinese Character
“Vibrant, political, poetic and challenging … Go see this show !!!” - SF Art Examiner
“Present Tense Biennial (…) is exciting …” - KQED Arts
“An unsung hoops hero hits Chinatown storefront” - SF Chronicle
” [Present Tense Biennial] is energetic …” - SF Weekly Arts
Present Tense Biennial: Chinese Character
By Claire Light
May 05, 2009
“…Thomas Chang, who's been making a career out of photographing charged spaces empty of people, to see what is left behind; Chang's photo series of Chinese landmarks can only be called surreal in the scenes' utter absence of human presence. It's squirmily uncomfortable, and some of the best work such a show can present.”
Read the full article:
Chinese Cultural Center and Kearny Street Workshop: Present Tense Biennial
By Marisa Nakasone
SF Art Examiner
May 6, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a Examiner.com
”Thomas Chang's series of photographs taken from Splendid China Theme Park in Orlando, Florida reframe the meta-Chinese Monuments (see the architectural wonders of China at 1/10th the size!) such that the images take on a surreal appearance of both authenticity and artifice. In this way, Chang's photography incisively highlights the disjunction between cultural legacy and historical tourism and the resultingly muddled messages this sends to the public.”
Read the full article:
Published July 7, 2009
"Thomas Chang, for example, explores what’s left of a theme park in Orlando, Florida fallen into disrepair. The miniature monuments captured in C-Prints have a haziness in the details which only serves to draw attention to the haziness behind the enterprise itself. The brain child of the Chinese government, the amusement site was meant to foster interest in tourism with replicas of famous sites in 1/10th scale. A facsimile of Tengwang Pavilion however is now gutted, the front exposed like a doll house and overgrown with weeds. This official “imprimatur” of Chinese culture, made for export and based on sites of historic importance and grandeur, has an interesting counterpart in the export of Americaness in Charlene Tan’s work (more on that in a bit)."
Read the full article:
June 4 - August 22, 2009
Opening Reception: June 4, 2009, 5 – 8 pm
657 Mission Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 5 pm
August 1 - September 20
Reception: August 1st, 6-8pm
San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
560 South First Street San Jose, CA 95113
Tue, Wed, Fri: 10:00 – 5:00
Thursday: 10:00 – 8:00
Saturday: 12:00 – 5:00
May 31-June 6
Intersection for the Arts
446 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Gallery Hours: Sun - Sat, 12 - 7pm
Lisa Dent Gallery presents new work by Thomas Chang in the show “Orientalism.” After
many years of volunteering as a docent and leading interpretive tours for the public at Angel
Island Immigration Station, Chang noted many recurring questions and misunderstandings
concerning the history of immigration and perceptions of ethnicity. In this work, Chang
offers insight into the portrayal of history, immigration, and ethnicity through photographs that
mimic the aesthetics of historic documents and that reveal questionable aspects of the displays
found at the Immigration Station.
To see some work in the show - click here
Lisa Dent Gallery
April 13th - March 13th
The San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants Program Awards Thomas Chang with an Individual Artist Commission for his work at the Angel Island Immigration Station.
The San Francisco Arts Commission was established in the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco in 1932 to ensure that the arts would be incorporated into the civic infrastructure for the Citys residents.
Cultural Equity Grants provides support for the enrichment of San Franciscos multicultural landscape. Programs offer project-oriented grants to arts organizations and individual artists to nurture the continuing growth of a vibrant arts scene.
Individual Artist Commissions are Grants to individual artists living and working in San Francisco to stimulate the creation and presentation of high-quality works of art throughout the citys neighborhoods.
For additional information, contact:
San Francisco Arts Commission
Cultural Equity Grants
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 60
San Francisco, CA 94102
Cultural Equity Grants
MAKING SENSE OF TODAY'S ART WORLD:
ARTISTIC SUCCESS, EMERGING ARTISTS SPEAK THEIR MINDS
San Francisco Office
595 Market St., 2nd floor
THOMAS CHANG, Visual Artist
ERIC SIEMENS, Visual Artist
KATE TEDMAN, Visual Artist
HANK WILLIS THOMAS, Visual Artist
ALISON BING, Art Critic - Moderator
When has an artist officially arrived?
Is it when that first major piece is sold, or not until collectors routinely snap up the work?
Does it require art-critical recognition?
The attention of private galleries, nonprofits or museums?
In anticipation of Yerba Buena's "Bay Area Now," five emerging artists will share their views.
6:00 p.m., Slide presentation
6:30 p.m., Discussion
7:30 p.m., Reception
Club office, 595 Market St., 2nd floor, San Francisco
$8 for Members, $15 for Non-members
Directions to the Club.
Program Coordinator: Raman Frey
For Immediate Release
Fleishhacker Foundation Announces Eureka Fellowship Recipients
San Francisco, CA Twelve Bay Area artists will receive a Eureka Fellowship, the largest cash prize for individual artists in the Bay Area, sponsored by the Fleishhacker Foundation. Designed to help artists continue making work by supporting more uninterrupted creative time, these prestigious $25,000 awards are based solely on artistic merit evidenced by previous work, and are not restricted to specific projects.
This round's Fellowship recipients include San Francisco artists Thomas Chang, Amy Franceschini, Paul Kos, George Kuchar, Josh Lazcano, Mads Lynnerup, Lourdes Portillo, Rigo 23, Clare Rojas, Philip Ross, and Chris Sollars; and from Sonoma, Chester Arnold.
One hundred and forty-two artists applied for the Fellowships from a candidate pool created by over 60 local nonprofit visual arts organizations that submitted nominations (see lists of nominated artists and nominating organizations, attached). The nominated artists represent a wide range of the regionıs artistic talent, with work reflecting a broad cultural and stylistic variety. Nominees were limited to working artists, 25 years or older, who reside in one of eight Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Marin, and Sonoma).
A panel of three nationally-known arts professionals judged the artists works, including Bill Horrigan, Media Arts Curator, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; Eungie Joo, Gallery Director and Curator, The Gallery at REDCAT, Los Angeles; and Lydia Yee, Senior Curator, The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The panel met at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Since 1986, Eureka Fellowships have recognized artistic excellence."This year we had the largest number of submissions ever, which demonstrated to the national selection panel the diversity and quality of artists in our region," remarked Foundation Executive Director Christine Elbel. "By providing artists with funds to support their artistic development, we hope to be a catalyst for the creation of new and exciting work, which benefits both the local community and the field as a whole."
"Our foundation is committed to encouraging individuals who are the source of so much important and enriching visual art," added David Fleishhacker, Foundation President. "We are glad to contribute to making the Bay Area a viable place for professional artists who have chosen to live and work here."
Established in 1947, The Fleishhacker Foundation makes grants to organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area in the fields of arts & Culture, and precollegiate Education.
The projectıs Co-Directors, Jack Walsh and Andy Moore, say they "appreciate the communityıs participation in this process through the great range of nominations received, and for services provided by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Marriott Courtyard San Francisco."
THOMAS CHANG (San Francisco) is a photographer who received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute where he received the David S. McMillan Memorial Award. He is also the recipient of a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award, a Jury Award from Artadia (formerly known as The Art Council, Inc.), a MFA Studio Award from the Headlands Center for the Arts, and a Murphy Fellowship from The San Francisco Foundation. His works have been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions at Southern Exposure Gallery Landing, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Bay Area Now, SF Camerawork Same/Difference, Andrea Schwartz Gallery Chromogenic Prints, GenArt/SF Emerge, Charles H. Scott Gallery in Toronto American Artists, and M.Y. Art Prospects in New York Absence/Presence. Currently he is a docent at Angel Island Immigration Station, where his work examines the use of photography as "document" in the way exotic representations are created through tourism.
For additional information, contact:
The Fleishhacker Foundation
Christine Elbel, Executive Director
1016 Lincoln Blvd. # 12
San Francisco, CA 94129
For a complete press release and more information you can visit:
In the San Francisco Bay on Angel Island there is an Immigration Station where a little known history is presented to the public through docent led tours. It is a history of immigration, detention, and race that is often understood by visitors for the first time through interpretive tours. This visual arts project depicts that history and its misconceptions through a series of photographs presented in gallery exhibitions in San Francisco, on site at Angel Island, and at large through the internet.
Fine art photographs which imitate historic documents are presented as multiple choice questions about immigration history - illustrating a correct answer and several wrong answers derived from common misconceptions. With a bit of humor and shock, the goal of this pop-quiz is to subvert and shatter common misconceptions and stimulate a dialogue about how complex issues of race and ethnicity are commonly conceived. Ten questions have been formulated and four possible answers to each are illustrated by a photograph. The correct answer is shown with an actual historic photograph, while each incorrect answer is illustrated by a photograph depicting a common misunderstanding staged by the artist. These photographs mimic scientific methodology, at times mocking its role as historic evidence, while also emphasizing the inaccuracies of an ideologically encoded bias constructed by society. The final presentation takes the form of a multiple choice quiz with photographs and text on the walls of the gallery.
Since returning from China to his home in San Francisco, Chang has volunteered as a docent at the Angel Island Immigration Station and has been exploring the questions raised in his Fulbright Grant project "Cultural Tourism in China" within the context of the artistıs own community. After two years of leading interpretive tours at the Immigration Station to the public and grade school children, Angel Island Docent Thomas Chang has noted recurring questions and misunderstandings of immigration history, immigrants, and perceptions of race and ethnicity.
China remains a screen onto which Westerners
project their fantasies of the exotic. Photography, as used by tourists, artists,
and academics alike has contributed significantly to a domain of fantasy and
spectacle. Images produced through snapshot photography, often imitating a documentary
style, are bound to the preconceptions of a group of photographers that is largely
foreign. An infant slung over its young mother's shoulder wearing richly embroidered
Asian garments, a straw basket roped to a man's back, a snowy landscape that
could have been painted a thousand years earlier: these are the romantic notions
of an exotic world created through the popular practice of photography.
This project presents challenges and alternatives to the popular mythology perpetuated in contemporary images of China. The result will be a record and a reflection of a cultural identity created by Western ideology and produced by tourism in China for export to the West. Beijing's most popular tourist attractions (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, etc.) are the exotic theatres wherein fantasy and spectacle are invented for a visitorıs lens. The Chinese, as subjects of the tourist camera, are explicitly involved in the construction of these images made for consumption. In my project I will reveal the outsider and the insider, the Westerner and the Easterner, the photographer and the photographed as participants in this continued portrayal of exotic "Other".
Marin (muh-RIN): The name of a great Miwok
Indian chief who fought the Spaniards, was captured, imprisoned, escaped, and
continued to terrorize the missions; or the bastard son of a Spanish sailor
who escaped from a wrecked galleon, his mother the sailorıs native consort;
or a simple Indian boatman who crossed the Bay on an armful of bulrushes; or
no Indian at all, but a Spanish sailor, "el marinero" ("unlikely Main was a
Indian name in his native language the sound rı does not occur"). Legendary
India chief, skilled sailor, or first on and then the other; Miwok or Spaniard;
or no one in particular: there is a tradition but no evidence for all and none*
Much like the name itself, Marin is a place that has a rich and diverse tradition which has included many inhabitants. The Miwok Indians came to Marin from the north; from the south, came the Spanish. The Portuguese, the Russians, the English, the US military, goldminers, sailors, and ranchers have all made their mark on The Marin Headlands. Even the perigrine falcon may fly from as far north as Alaska to find itself a place there. What evidence of their presence is left? My artwork is about capturing a sense of who has inhabited a place through the place itself. What is evident is a description of who once inhabited a place. The presence is described through the environment. By picturing only the things and not the people, the viewer can be involved in the construction of identities, in the creation of the stories about the place and the people.
My interest in creating this type of artwork stems from the place itself. The absence/presence of the people in my photography has been, up to now, about a place that has been vacated moments ago, or at the most, days ago. The history of the Marin Headlands offers me an opportunity to capture the essence of a people left from many years ago, as many as 10,000 years ago by some accounts. The body of work that would result would find its strength in the fact that this one place has been occupied by so many, including the viewer and the artist. The mark of that presence would no longer be taken for granted, and certainly not disregarded.
Keats wrote of Byron: "He describes what
he sees I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task." A photograph
represents to me a use made of what is seen, a combining of things observed,
with the effects of light, the capabilities of a camera, the confidence of a
plan, all fused with some ingredient of time, past and present. This type of
photography is not easy. It takes careful observation, an understanding of place,
and deference to time. The studio at the Marin Headlands, the company of artists,
and the access to its place, will hasten its fruition.
*Miles DeCoster et al. Headlands: the Marin coast at the Golden Gate. (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1989), p.1
Headlands Center for the Arts announces the opening of Project Space, sponsored by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the space is open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays, and Sundays, 12-5pm. Project Space provides HCA visitors with the chance to interact with artists and witness the process of making art. Past Artists-In-Residence (AIR), Affiliate Artists, MFA Graduate Studio Awardees, alumni and other selected artists are invited to work in the Project Space.
Thomas Chang in Project Space: "Cold Spring Harbor" Every day we create categories to assign people to hierarchically ordered groupings. Historically, scientific measurements of head size (Craniometry), facial features, body type and height have been key resources in this practice. During the week in Project Space the project will attempt to measure the traits and discover basic patterns which define specific personality types. Each visitor will be asked to sit for a portrait from which careful measurements of head size, eye shape, hair color, and body type will be recorded. The goal is to correspond these statistics to personality types such as: Quiet and Reflective, Creative and Original, Artistic, Analytical and Logical, Assertive and Outspoken, Traditional and Prudent, or Independent and Determined.
Headlands Center for the Arts Artists' Talk: Thursday, May 31 2001 at 8pm
A cul-de-sac off El Camino Del Mar near 28th Avenue in San Francisco leads to a lovely stretch of publicly owned coastline. At the head of the trail down to the beach is a large trapezoidal stone marker placed by Chinese Americans in 1981: China Beach.
Since Gold Rush times, this cove was used as a campsite by many of the Chinese fisherman who worked in and around San Francisco Bay. Their efforts to supply the needs of a young city helped establish one of the areaıs most important industries and traditions.
Itıs proper to have some Chinese American history on the California landscape because Chinese Americans played a major role in the West, not just building the railroads but also in mining, farming, business, personal service, heavy construction, and as this maker tells, fishing. Indeed, in the early 1880ıs Chinese Americans made up 50 percent of all fishing crews in the Bay area. But this marker tells only half the story.
During most of the twentieth century, the beach was not called China Beach but Phelan Beach, as whites expelled Chinese people from the beach and from the fishing industry in the 1890ıs. In 1880, California passed "An Act Relating to Fishing in the Waters of this State": "All aliens incapable of becoming electors of this state are hereby prohibited from fishing, or taking any fish, lobster, shrimps, or shell fish of any kind, for the purpose of selling, or giving to another person to sell" Conveniently, only Chinese were aliens not eligible to vote. Courts declared the bill unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, but the legislature continued to pass similar measures until the end of the century. Californiaıs senators got Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which cut Chinese immigration from 39,500 in 1882 to just ten persons five years later. Meanwhile white fishermen resorted to extralegal strong-arm tactics. By 1890 only 20 percent of the fishing community were Chinese, and their numbers continued to dwindle the rest of the century."
By 1893, riots and boycotts in San Francisco and the farming districts of California created conditions "approximating civil war," according to a 1997 exhibit at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles. White thuggery forced many Chinese Americans back to Chinatowns for protection. Prejudice against Chinese Americans ran so high that San Franciscoıs public schools admitted African Americans to desegregated schools in 1899 and Native Americans in 1921, but kept Chinese Americans out until 1929.
Some might argue to leave the China Beach marker as it is let bygones be bygones. But all too often, all across America, historic sites emphasize only the good parts of our past. Surely historian Paul Gagnon is correct to say, "We do not need a bodyguard of lies. We can afford to present ourselves in the totality of our acts." Rather than leaving out the bad parts, as this marker does, hoping that anti-Chinese sentiments will never recur, San Franciscans could engage in a civic dialogue to formally declare the beach as China Beach. Thus they would dishonor, rather than continue, to honor the anti-Chinese sentiments exemplified in Mayor Phelanıs career. *
*Lies Across America: What Our Historic SiteLies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong by James W. Loewen
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
The third in YBCA's widely acclaimed, landmark series of triennial surveys, Bay Area Now 3 is a Center-wide festival that presents snapshots of the artistic currents and recent developments of Northern California's vital arts community. This exhibition combines a bevy of emerging talents in an exploration of work by some of the area's most revered yet underrecognized established practitioners.
from the catalog
Thomas Chang is best known for two bodies of work: Decadence, which portrays architectural details of affluent homes and plush hotels in Southern California; and Strip Tease, a look at the barren interiors of night clubs and strip joints in San Francisco. His new body of work, tentatively titled China Series, is an examination of Beijing, a city whose dynamic urban, social and economic changes are in stark contrast to the stagnant nostalgia and exoticism placed on it by the West. While the three projects seem to address very different matters, they all share the same theme - empty spaces. As a form of photographic anthropology, Chang's practice is to examine static environments in an attempt to understand those who have built and occupy the spaces.
His stylistic use of emptiness and the recurrent lack of human activity, serve as a metaphor for what the artist believes to be the invisible desires of those who might inhabit these spaces. Decadence depicts the materalistic accoutrements used to fill a spiratual void, and Strip Tease shows artificial environments that promise spectacle and satisfaction yet yield nothing. Chang's China Series portrays the desire of those liviing in this city to contend with the enormous changes around them due to the increasing availability of resources from the ouside world. Every photograph in Chang's oeuvre is immaculately contructed. Formally rigorous, he balances rich details with an economy of means, filling every sqare inch with well-considered information in an attempt to outline the invisible in the midst of it all.
Visual Arts Curator
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Area Now 3" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Vol. 33, Issue 10, Dec 2002 / Jan 2003.
by Marisa S. Olson
Thomas Chang's photos from Beijing take Vegas-style hyper-reality conversations global. In them we see the Great Wall re-created for a theme park the way The Strip is re-creating the neighboring Grand Canyon. Caricatures of "traditional" Chinese restaurants and gardens. The content of Chang's poignant documents reads more like momento mori to a bygone culture than self-homage they might hope to connote.
M.Y. Art Prospects
547 West 27th Street, 2nd fl.
New York City, N.Y.
M.Y. Art Prospects is pleased to present Absence / Presence, a three-person exhibition featuring photography by Thomas Chang, a mixed-media sculpture installation by Kaoru Motomiya, and drawings by Sung-Ah Chang. The opening reception will take place on Wednesday, March 21, 6-8pm, as part of the citywide "Asia Week" celebration.
Organized by art historian and curator Doryun Chong, this exhibition presents works of three young artists, which all revolve around the dual concepts of Absence/Presence, despite their clearly distinct aesthetic qualities.
Thomas Chang's photography explores environments of genteel consumption, sexual gratification, and display of wealth and privilege. They are spaces pregnant with socioeconomic implications of interpersonal relationships, but Chang's images clinically evacuate any human presence. Suffused with gorgeous and sensual hues, Chang's works explore stimulating new dimensions in color photography.
Extending the boundaries of organic form and function, Kaoru Motomiya creates quietly unsettling sculptures and installations. For her newest work, she sampled small gaps and marks on the wooden floor of her New York studio. Using a variety of odd shapes molded from these patterns, she has created sculptures that evoke a profound sense of the effects of aging and life's ever-changing nature.
Sung-Ah Chang's large drawings present human images - views of a seemingly slumbering person, seen from subtly varying angles. In them, the painter gives equal weight to fine texture and agile movement. She gives the viewer a unique window into the psychological landscape of the drawn subject with supreme exercises in the most basic form of art making.
Thomas Chang studied photography and psychology at University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his M. F. A. in photography at San Francisco Art Institute. Kaoru Motomiya graduated from Musashino University of Art in Tokyo. She has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, and participated in a number of group shows in Japan, Canada, and USA. Sung-Ah Chang studied painting at Seoul National University and at San Francisco Art Institute.
- Doryun Chong
M.Y. Art Prospects
The New York Art World Magazine
by Merrily Kerr
This show focuses on how the human body relates to physical spaces, in the absence or intimate presence of unspecified people, on the example of work by three artsists; each of whom utilizes different media.
Kaoru Motomiyaıs Untitiled installation, comprised of over thirty delicate strings covered with shinning beads of resin and ending in organic, egg-like globes, hang from the ceiling over carefully arranged pieces of a broken mirror and black glass. As part of a very different piece, entitled Seven pieces for studio #11 of ISCP, Motomiya made casts from the empty spaces between the floorboards of her studio during a recent residency. In three small sculptures made of leather and clay she reproduces the empty spaces filled by her castes, sewing each closed with colored thread.
Thomas Changıs photographs reveal the interior of empty strip clubs, in non-business hours, thereby "stripping bare" the façade that dim lights, mirrors and loud music create.
Sung-ah Chang delights in the texture of hair. From photographs of her own hair, taken as she lies down, Chang produces large-scale drawings in charcoal in which her face is rarely visible. In Deep Sleeping, she captures waves of hair as they bend, twist, slump and fall during sleep; affecting a uniquely intimate portrait. Each of these artist succeeds in articulating the fragile boundary between private and public space.