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Here's my take

SF Bay Area Arts: Asian Art Museum Open and Exciting

By Carol Benet

Asian Art Museum Open and Exciting

Carol Benet

The Asian Art Museum is now open and offers three extraordinary exhibits, all on the first level.  They attest to the  change in policies in the Asian that now wants to emphasize contemporary art as well as offer its traditional Asian art galleries on the upper levels which are also open.  

The three contemporary exhibitions welcome the viewer.  First, in the Lee Gallery is a display of over 50 short videos in “After Hope” where international political issues are addressed as well as Asian art motifs from the past.  On the wall facing the video screen are posters reflecting the pain of the anti-Asian violence that has just erupted in our country, thanks to the thoughtless remarks from the former president about the unproven claims that Covid 19 was caused by the Chinese.

The posters also advertise sentiments saying “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” and “Asian for Black Lives” in addition to displays of cartoons, reproductions of short essays and other relevant out-cryings from artists in countries as diverse as Iran, China, Syria that have been targeted by prejudice.

Three socially distanced benches facing the screen invite visitors where they can take a rest or park the kids for awhile while they see the other parts of the display.

The second exhibit in the Hambrecht gallery shows “Mementos” by two artists with two impressive large works.  Jayashree Chakravarty’s large hanging derives from her memories of her hometown Kolkata in West Bengal, India.  She has constructed a kind of map of the city using cotton as the backing on top of which she layers rice paper and tissue .  On this background are small squares symbolizing houses, mountains, trees and roads outlined with stains of natural pigments including coffee and tea.  In some places she creates a golden and silver luminescence from special paints giving the undulating hanging a shimmering quality.  The work can be seen by walking around it.  It is very elegant.   

The other installation in this gallery is  a two sided video by Hong Kong artist Lam Tun Pang.  ‘A Day of Two Suns” has moving images of birds on branches, trees,  and rocks surrounded by rising water.  As you walk around the video screens your own shadow becomes incorporated in the work allowing an interesting interactive touch.

The Osher Gallery features the Bay Area Artist Zheng Chongbing whose works were commissioned by the Asian Museum and signal its emphasis on contemporary art.  A large painting in blacks and grey ink and acrylic take up an entire wall.  Facing this is a video with two separate screens around which you may walk to enjoy them from two sides.  And on another wall is a display of many of this artist’s sketches and works in process that resemble architectural designs.

Zheng Chongbin’s spectacular “I Look for the Sky” hangs above the Bogart Courtyard outside the Osher Gallery .  This is an impressive series of constructions that resemble architectural forms that could be taken as buildings. He  is one of the Bay Area’s most creative contemporary artists.

All three galleries on the first floor were donated by people who lived on the Tiburon Peninsula,  The Lee’s,  Osher’s and Hambrecht’s.  The Asian Art Museum requires reservations, but the day I went it was quite empty and they welcomed me.  It is  also open Thursday nights from 5 to 8 pm.