"Big and Beautiful", reviewed by Jeff Mahoney, A&E, The Hamilton Spectator, June 09, 2010 www.thespec.com/article/784700#
"Beyond kitsch", reviewed by Elizabeth Daley, Queens Chronicle, April 29, 2010 p.27 & p.31
Colony of Kitsch (copy of the article)
by Elizabeth Daley, qboro Editor
The title of Crossing Art’s latest exhibit, “Beyond the Colony of Kitsch,” comes from a New York Times article written just after Hong Kong gained independence from England in 1997. At that time, all over Hong Kong, people were celebrating their newfound freedom by producing and buying cheesy yet innovative souvenirs, termed kitschy by some and catchy by others.
Defined in 1939 by art critic Clement Greenberg as the dumbing down of culture caused by consumerism, kitsch invades our daily life in America in the form of items as delightful as they are useless.Designer toilet seats, tissue box cozies and lawn gnomes figure heavily into American iterations.
In Crossing Art’s latest exhibit, artists Sin-ying Ho, Heungman, Teresa Kwong, Bing Lee, Annysa Ng, Samson Young and Kaho Albert Yu; all from Hong Kong, explore notions of kitsch through video, ceramics, photography and installation. The result is a high culture-low culture clash, housed inside the Queens Crossing mall, an appropriate place for such a collision.
The entrance to the Queens Crossing building features a laminated wall, framing the elevators with a brick-colored design appearing to imitate an as yet undiscovered marble. The highly designed glass enclosed lobby holds spiral staircases going both up and down. TV screens near the elevators showcase the building’s many offerings.
A restaurant on the second floor serves nouveau Asian cuisine to the soft sounds of a Chinese imitation Celine Dion. Patrons dine surrounded by strands of falling water. Lit with blue lights, the water is guided by thin nylon cords and falls straight, tame and somewhere between beautiful and tacky.
It is only upon venturing into the austere basement of Crossing Art that patrons of the shops at Queens Crossing may reflect critically upon the fluff that surrounds them. The dimly lit gallery is worlds away from the shops that surround it, yet remains in dialogue with them through its latest exhibit.
Gallery co-director Jennifer Junkermeier says patrons attracted to the mall for other reasons often wander into Crossing Art with no concept of what a commercial art gallery is. “They are like ‘What is this space? Is it a museum?’” At times this gets frustrating for Junkermeier, who has been involved in the art world for many years, but at the end of the day she feels the gallery has a worthy mission. “We want to be here to let people know that you don’t have to go to Chelsea to see really great work and that there is a venue here in Flushing ... it’s been a really cool thing to work with Sin-ying ... she is a local artist from Flushing whose work fits in very well with our gallery as well,” Junkermeier said.
Ho’s work is as decorative as it is complex. She creates pottery mash-ups, working clay into different shapes and sizes on her wheel, then cutting them in pieces to reattach them to each other. The vessels that result are Frankensteinian creations adorned with the blue and white of fine china and printed commercial icons or pop culture images she gleans from the Internet.
Ho’s pieces at once reference handmade ceramics exported from China during the 17th century and the $10 versions which may be purchased at tacky stores across the country. She indicates the pervasiveness of global commercial culture, hiding in plain sight American favorites like KFC and Barbie in her works, mirroring the ways in which U.S. consumer culture has infiltrated homes all over the world, at once clashing with and morphing to accommodate aspects of traditional local culture.
At the same time, Ho’s work may be seen as a commentary on the ceramic trade itself, which boomed as porcelain clanked across the sea in ships from China to dinner tables of the rich and famous in Europe.
Chinese porcelain took on Western motifs as artisans began catering to Europeans.China dominated the market until European manufacturers such as Meissen borrowed Chinese motifs and produced quality porcelain at a cheaper price, since there was no added shipping cost, according to Sotheby’s. The Chinese porcelain industry declined as many industries have today when under-priced by Asian imports, making Ho’s ceramic commentary all the more exciting when considered in this context.
Over time, porcelain fashions changed and tasteful blue and white china was supplanted by a more gaudy and ornate European version, which would later be called kitschy (though not with that exact word) by Goethe. The term “kitsch” was used after industrialization to distinguish authentic works of art from manufactured commercial pretenders. The word itself is said to derive from the German “verkitschen,” which means to make cheap.
In Greenberg’s 1939 essay “The Avant-Garde and Kitsch” he posited the avant-garde art movement as existing in opposition to kitsch, however today the boundaries between the two are permeable. Artists such as Toronto’s Shary Boyle and Jeff Koons use porcelain to explore notions of kitsch, drawing from Meissen gaudiness and modern culture to deliver art that is in some ways as avant-garde as it is kitschy.
Kitsch has been reinstated as the so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure of consumer culture, often celebrated in works like the Samson Young’s “Build Socialism With Chinese Characteristics” on display at Crossing Art.
In Young’s piece, he is dressed as a teletubby and sucks a lollipop like a child, reminding viewers of the role nostalgia often plays in the positive valuation of kitsch. Like an overly sweet aftertaste, kitsch lingers beyond colonization.
"Pop: The Global Citizen", reviewed by Karen Kwarciak, Exhibit Files, Association of Science - Technology Centers, December 31, 2008 www.exhibitfiles.org/pop_the_global_citizen
Pop: The Global Citizen
Review of an Exhibition
Published on December 30, 2008, Modified on December 31, 2008
A painted Humvee door, a recreated oriental rug that juxtaposes images of Brittany Spears and Snow White and a ceramic blue and white Santa Claus…these are all objects that can be seen in PoP: The Global Citizen. This exhibition features American based artists who have explored the influence of popular culture in our global art world. The interesting twist is that every work in the exhibition combines current Western cultural elements with non-Western pop culture.
The gallery space is small, with stark white walls, tall ceilings and wood floors. Some of the pieces in the exhibition did not fit in the gallery space and therefore spilled into the Center’s hallway. When I first walked into the space, my eyes bounced around the gallery. Everything was vibrant or wacky and screamed for my attention.
There were a few pieces I noticed right away. Two of the ceramic objects by Leopold L. Foulem were an intriguing mix of East meets West. They were created in the classic Chinese blue and white motif. One portrayed Santa Claus and the other was a teapot with a small image of two males. Across from these vitrines was a terra cotta and mixed media sculpture titled “you’re the bomb” by Benjamin Schulman. The sculpture was of seven young boys each holding there own tricolored penis (meant to imitate our favorite American Popsicle). Next to this sculpture were two Humvee doors with painted images of pin-up girls. Artist, Wayne Coe uses the commercialization of news and government propaganda to inspire his work.
Most interesting to me were the six pieces of sculpture at the end of the gallery by artist Sin-Ying Ho. From a distance, each piece looked like a traditional Chinese vase; however, with a closer look I was able to see their remarkable detail. In each of her pieces she has transformed porcelain vessels into unfamiliar sculptures by deconstructing and then reconstructing the form. Parts of the sculpture appear to be recycled teapots, vases and cups. She hand painted each vessel and then applied computer decal images of the Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe, Wonder Woman and Barbie – to name a few.
There were text panels throughout the exhibition to provide additional context for the viewer (something I was very grateful for during my visit) and gallery guides that gave further insight into three of the featured art works. By the end of my visit, some objects still appeared wacky and others…more beautiful than ever.
"The Medium is the Message" by James Tarrant, Ceramics Art and Perception, issue 64, June-Aug., 2006 p.25-28