Los Angeles, CA. LAM Gallery is pleased to feature five exciting Taiwanese artists, based in Taiwan, China, and New York -- most of whom are having their first gallery show in California. “Across the Pacific” showcases the work of veteran sculptor Marvin Minto Fang, as well as mid-career and emerging artists Tang-Wei Hsu, Tsu-Han Su, Yi-li Yeh, and Chien-Yang Wang.
For many this show will be an eye-opener. While the work of Chinese avant-garde artists such as Ai Wei Wei and Cai Guoqiang have become internationally famous, work by Taiwanese artists is less familiar. Taiwan artists took the plunge into contemporary art well before mainland China, since Taiwan has long been a more open society, especially after the end of martial law in 1987. Culturally, Taiwan has been strongly influenced both by the United States, which helped guide it through the post-war era in the 1950s and 1960s, and by Japan. Japan ran the island as a colony for 50 years (1895–1945), and the “Japanese miracle” of the postwar era made Japan the Asian country to emulate.
So it is not surprising that a number of the artists take their cues from pop culture and consumer culture, and are keenly aware of current trends in photography, video, and installation in Japan and the West. Artist Yi-Li Yeh, for example, makes wry commentary on contemporary culture – in her photographs and videos, her exaggerations point out how culture can be both seductive and ludicrous. In “Kuso-pink in Monet’s Garden” she uses live action – a person dressed up as a cartoonish virus – playing in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France, combined with computer generated effects. As she has said, “I feel the virus world is the best interpretation of the relationship between life and art creating.” “Kuso,” she explains, is a Japanese swear word, but in the Japanese internet world it refers to “a type of kitsch culture and often against mainstream value.”
Chien-Yang Wang riffs off the idea of “otaku.” This Japanese word is an honorific term for someone else’s house, or a formal way of referring to the second person, but in slang it defines someone who is insular and socially awkward, since they are obsessive fans of some aspect of manga, anime, or popular culture – in short, geeks. For his photographs Wang constructs elaborate sets with costumed actors. In “Love Ice Cream” a woman wearing a bikini embraces a giant soft ice cream cone, while bounding across a room filled with more giant soft ice cream cones; the room itself is covered with an op art pink wallpaper on the sides and a series of Andy Warhol-style Marilyn Monroe portraits in the back.
Minto Fang works with plywood, and his sculpture is closely related to his interests in reuse and recycling. In the 5 ½-foot sculpture “Bonsai,” twisted branches of a dead plant emerge from a giant flower pot – it’s an ironic commentary on the practice of forcing flowers and trees to grow in miniature size, by growing them in a restricted pot and pruning them relentlessly. In a way, Fang has done the same to create his own “bonsai” – taking raw material (plywood), and augmenting it and subtracting from it to simulate the shape of an organism. Fang extents the idea of reuse and contortion in “Bonsai” (installation version), in which the components are vertically sliced, and mounted on the wall.
Tang-Wei Hsu paints with the imagery of ecology, astronomy, anime, and architecture. His imaginative compositions employ Eastern visual language in the synthesis of realistic and fantasy worlds with the intent to fabricate new environments and enrich perceptions of space and/or heighten awareness of place.
Environment is also on the minds of Tsu-Han Su whose sculptures tell stories inside transparent blocks shaped like houses.
Marvin Minto Fang (b. 1955, Taiwan) studied Interior Design at Woodbury University in Burbank, CA, and later took an MA in Environment Design from California State University, Los Angeles. In 1987 he completed an MFA at Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (now Otis College of Art and Design), where he studied ceramics under the noted artist Ralph Bacerra. Fang began exhibiting in 1984, and he has had solo exhibitions at the Pekin Fine Arts, Beijing, and has work in important public collections including the UBS Bank Art Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and Cincinnati Art Museum.
Tang-Wei Hsu (b. 1980, Taiwan) lives and works in New York. He has a BA in Architecture from the Shih Chien University and an MFA in Visual Arts at the Tainan National University of the Arts. His images emerge from an imaginary fantasy universe and flow into drawing, sculpture, and installation.
Tsu-Han Su (b. 1984, Taiwan) graduated from the 2007 Taipei Municipal University of Education, then finished a degree in fine arts at Kaohsiung Normal University in 2010. She has had solo and group shows in Taiwan, Japan, and Poland. In 2015 she won the National Art Award Photography in Taichung, Taiwan.
Chien-Yang Wang (b. 1981,Taiwan) graduated from National Taiwan University of the Arts with a BFA in 2006, and was recently included in the Taiwan Biennale of 2014 at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung. His work has been shown in solo and group shows in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Mexico City, as well as in Taipei.
Yi-Li Yeh (b. 1973, Taiwan) obtained an undergraduate degree from National Taiwan University of the Arts in 1995, and a graduate degree from Tainan National University of the Arts in 2000. Starting in 2004 she began a series of performances in which she dressed in fantastical costume as fairies, monsters, or “wicked women” and recorded the performances in various locations, including city streets and forests.