“Asia” covers a lot of territory, both geographically and culturally. In countless ways, Asia influences us all.
In the Bay Area, and California in general, its influence is particularly visible, thanks to the vibrant range of cultures in this region. Proximities is a trilogy of exhibitions featuring diverse perspectives of Bay Area-based artists whose work expresses connections, conceptions and interpretations of Asia. Working from various personal proximities to the region—from family heritage to commercial transactions—the artists offer points of departure for contemplating the role of place in contemporary art.
The first exhibition, What Time Is It There?, raised questions about how Asia is seen from afar. This second show, Knowing Me, Knowing You, focused on actual, imagined and virtual relationships across generations.
The concept that almost everyone on the planet touches something that is conceived, mined, manufactured, routed or outsourced in Asia informs this third and final show in the Proximities series. Import/Export features artworks that trace cycles of commerce, manufacturing and shifting values, from commodities to ideas. Trade routes have connected Asia and the West since ancient times, and trade locations and transactions have long been subjects of art. The increasing scale and speed of current economic relationships with and within the Asian region have brought new inspirations for contemporary artists. The process of exchange may bring us into direct contact with materials and ideas from Asia, but when exports become commodities, our proximity to their origins grows more elusive and abstract.
Leslie Shows taps the raw materials that pass through the Bay Area en route to Asia and possibly back, while Rebeca Bollinger explores the manufactured commercial objects imported into the United States with the imprint of personal connection. Imin Yeh points to the skill and labor required to craft objects that many of us take for granted or undervalue—such as the shopping bags that sell for ten cents in San Francisco. Byron Peters explores the market of technology, labor and data exchange and how we value immaterial commodities. Jeffrey Augustine Songco considers the import and wholesale acceptance of Asian relaxation techniques, while Amanda Curreri deals with covert signals of commerce and economies of military strength and power. Like the other exhibitions in the series, Import/Export offers artistic perspectives on the roles of objects and ideas in conveying a sense of Asia, and the ways our proximity to a region colors our answers to complex questions about place.