Mini city skylines extend across the bottom inch of large, white paper canvases. Above the fictional city planes: open sky. Up, up, up. It is the view of cities from afar, where the geometry and architecture are compressed, where there is more sky than city: wide and encircling, everlasting. Once inside the city, views of the sky are always obstructed and the space inside deliriously dense. The spatial density from afar exists only in that bottom inch, and from afar, as restrained surfaces of standardized archetypal architecture, these cities seem utopian in their distance, before one gets swallowed up in the swiftly sweeping city life. These mini cities are Kevin Chen's contribution to the annual festival of Asian Pacific American artists in "Shifted Focus," marking the 10th anniversary of APAture.
Another piece requires actual spatial distance from the viewer in order for the work to come into focus. It is a steel wool sculpture that at first view, is a tangled mess of fiber sprawling from the floor to ceiling. But when I step back, the image emerges in startling detail. It is of a woman balancing houses on her head, shrinking from the accumulation of material wealth and the American need for more, bigger and better. As the wool gets pulled down slowly over time by gravity, so to will the image sink and move as it is subject to its natural properties.
So much must be said of all these pieces. Rajkamal Kahlon's piece examines how the body is a place where war makes its changes. A tree grows towards the light from the sky, seen through a TV screen in Mark Baugh-Sasaki's piece. Each piece presents its own challenges with how space and volume is calculates as well as how to confront the viewer and force this shift in focus, to narrow the lens on these constructed surroundings. It is about seeing. Re-seeing. Construction, destruction. Reinterpreting what we normally see. Like flipping the sky around and seeing what's on the other side.
(Images: Mark Baugh, Sasaki; Rebecca Szeto; Weston Teruya. All images courtesy of the Artists and Kearny Street. Photo credits: Elton Sim)
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