Monthly Archives: May 2012

Integrating the West with the East: ‘Phantoms of Asia’ at Asian Art Museum

Last year, Chinese scroll artist Zhang Daqian raked in $506 million in auction sales, surpassing Andy Warhol by a good $175 million. This is significant. Asia’s appetite for art has expanded in direct proportion with the region’s rapidly developing economy, which has been largely unfazed by the U.S. financial and European debt crises. China, which is opening museums at a rate of about 100 a year, now accounts for 41 percent of total world art revenue, up from 33 percent in 2010, and shows no signs of slowing. At this point, it is not unthinkable that New York might give …Continue reading

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The Messiness of Love, Family, and Identity: Q&A with Lysley Tenorio

The people of Lysley Tenorio’s story collection, Monstress (Ecco), are straddlers. Most obviously, they straddle cultures. Filipino immigrants in America pine for their native land or wish, often hopelessly, to assimilate indistinguishably into the culture of their adopted home. Life in the Philippines seems just as conflicted; the West’s exported culture muscles out the endeavors of Filipinos, with the Beatles and Hollywood dominating the collective imagination there just as much as they do here. But Tenorio’s characters also seem to straddle the high and low. He imbues them with profound (but never cheaply sentimental) longings, and with refinement of feeling …Continue reading

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A Relationship Gone Missing: ‘Love, an Index’ by Rebecca Lindenberg

Many poems of love loss have been written, but none are as difficult to categorize as those in Rebecca Lindenberg’s collection Love, an Index (McSweeney’s; 96 pages). The title itself is a teasing, post-romantic gesture, as though the subject can be summed up in one sequential arrangement. And yet, the poet attempts. But unlike Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” whose world is full of “many things… filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster,” Lindenberg’s poems do not possess that self-consoling bravado. Her loss is abrupt and unforeseeable; her lover-poet, Craig Arnold, mysteriously vanishes while …Continue reading

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Pulling Back the Layers: Adrian Wong’s ‘Orange Peel, Harbor Seal, Hyperreal’

Adrian Wong’s three sculptural works comprising Orange Peel, Harbor Seal, Hyperreal, now on display at the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco, would likely not exist if it weren’t for a bit of stubbornness on Wong’s part: his refusal to own a smart phone. The accomplished young artist and academic, who splits his time between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, excels at a deliberate kind of urban wandering—one that involves scrupulous attention to a city’s spatial organization, architectural forms, and idiosyncratic stylistic details. It also means frequently getting lost. Having the option to mediate his experience through the two-dimensional layer …Continue reading

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Soaring in the Air, Writhing on the Ground: Bad Unkl Sista’s ‘First Breath, Last Breath’

I could tell the performance I was about to witness late last month was extraordinary even before entering the auditorium, just from watching the audience trickle into Z Space in San Francisco. There was a man who had somehow fused his beard with a slinky-like spiral pipe and wrapped it around his neck like a scarf. There were a few women in Betty Page/rockabilly outfits and the attendant shellacked beehive and Winehouse eyeliner. One girl’s hair resembled a Pantone swatch sheet—literally—small squares of dye checkered her shoulder-length crop. One man, who we found out later was the set designer for …Continue reading

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Finding the Sacred in Life on the Calle: ‘Girlchild’ by Tupelo Hassman

The first thing to be understood about Tupelo Hassman’s debut novel, Girlchild, is that the young protagonist, Rory Dawn Hendrix, is alone. This is not only evidenced in her isolation: living in Reno’s Calle de las Flores trailer park, her general lack of school friends, or the way her poverty is treated coolly by government officials. Rory Dawn’s aloneness comes off in her fearless narration, the way she wanders off unaided into unknown places, to be followed by the adventurous reader. Rory approaches everything familiar with caution. The Calle is her home, but it doesn’t offer the comfort or the …Continue reading

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What We Do to Ourselves, and to the Wild: ‘Raptor’ by Andrew Feld

A bold investigation of cruelty, Andrew Feld’s Raptor (University of Chicago Press; 88 pages) illuminates the visceral details of the external world through electrifying, scary close encounters. Feld wastes no time in announcing his provocation: “You wanted a little bit of wilderness / Held docile on your wrist. What could be tamer / Than extinct?” These lines pierce straight through to the locus of a power struggle where the table is turned on a bird tamer, who is probed by accusations of culpability and blamed for razing what he touches. Feld’s poetry dissects violence and imbues it with drama, provoking …Continue reading

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