View Count: 111 |  Publish Date: December 25, 2013
'Proximities 3: Import/Export': Asian connection

To get a taste of the U.S.-Asia import-export relationship, simply check the labels on everything youre wearing, the phone in your hand and the furniture you sit upon. In the words of a long-ago huckster, youre soaking in it.
Or carrying it, in the case of Bay Area artist Imin Yeh, who seems to be less interested in the contents of your shopping bag than your literal baggage - in particular, the glossy department store bags seen banging against so many shoppers legs during the holidays.
For Proximities 3: Import/Export, the last of three Asian Art Museum group shows delving into the idea of Asia through the works of local artists, Yeh brought back, from an India residency, the experience of touring a paper factory that pulped rags and undertook an elaborate process to make those slick bags.
It made her think of craft and value in culture, for a bag that right now in San Francisco is worth 10 cents, and the labor that goes into it, says series guest curator Glen Helfand. Its incredibly handcrafted, and she went through the process herself and made 12 bags by hand, working with a paper factory in the Mission and screen-printing them all. Its about questioning value, making and craft.
Yeh is one of six artists, including Rebeca Bollinger and Leslie Shows, presenting new and recent works in the intimate exhibit. Amanda Curreri, who spent time in Seoul while married to someone in the military, looks at the twinned barber poles on the Yongsan Military Base that signify sexual services for sale, and Jeffrey Augustine Songco shows a video of an All-American man, sitting cross-legged and caught in the loop of an endless breath.
The latter embodies the quiet tone of Import/Export, intriguing since its connected to a sphere often fraught with noisy contention concerning events like the deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh this year.
Global trade and labor inequities have had a strong sway on politically based contemporary art, and Id say some of the artists in the show were dealing with that, says Helfand, who also teaches at California College of the Arts and Mills. Im really viewing the show as more of an emptying out of an idea. Even though every day, were wearing a piece of clothing thats made in Asia, it tells us nothing about the place.
Byron Peters video work, Untitled, closes with an image of sky created by a Chinese architectural rendering firm. It could be anywhere - or nowhere. He hired them to render the sky above their workplace, which he obtained for the price of getting them 50 Facebook Likes, Helfand says. I find it a really provocative statement and, in a way, a punctuation or anchor for the show.
If you go
Proximities 3: Import/Export: Through Feb. 23. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (closed New Years Day). $5-$12. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., S.F. (415) 581-3500.
Kimberly Chun is a Berkeley writer. E-mail: Twitter: @kimberlychun

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Time: 21:29  |  News Code: 355480  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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