Andrea Chung in CuratorLove 11.28.17

Sugar, Spice & Everything CAAM

Gotta love it when a museum gets it just right.

While exploring the countless exhibitions that make up the PST: LA/LA roster, the slogan “There will be art…”  has taken me to various spaces around the city of Angeles, but also as far as Palm Springs and San Diego. I’ve been on many wondrous art explorations thanks to PST: LA/LA,  some exhibitions are good, some are great, some are spectacular, some… not so much. I’ve seen an Anaconda in residency at a museum, a tango dance on eggshells, a nude nun washing someone’s feet, a bus explode into fireworks and oh so much more…

However, a few organizations are showing artworks from the same artists over and over again in different museums, others appear to be having the same conversation in repetition, and a few others seem to have lost their voice in the larger query while trying to convey something very foreign to what they truly understand. And of course, a selected few are mind-blowing exhibitions that hit the sweet spot… thankfully! After visiting around seventy exhibitions I must say I have a few favorites, but truly what I appreciate more so than anything else, are those rare instances in which museums, organizations or institutions seem to break from the standard exhibition parameters to show me something else. Now I don’t mean new art, I encounter new art all the time; I mean a new convergence, a new possibility within this highly codified art world of ours.

The California African American Museum, for instance, decided to partner with the Chinese American Museum to have a one-on-one art conversation during PST: LA/LA. Thank you for that CAAM and CAM.  This set of exhibits are in fact the only dual exhibitions in the entire PST: LA/LA (roster of exhibitions which includes single organizations having multiple and divergent exhibitions, and divergent organizations showing the exact same artist in multiple spaces… yes this is logical according to PST… god forbid curators actually converse with one another). Thankfully both CAM and CAAM found an alternative solution and are in fact, exploring Chinese Caribbean art… TOGETHER!! Yes!… this is where you pretend you knew that Chinese art had a huge influence in the Caribbean, which onto itself is a new and awesome query. I personally happen to be half Asian and half Latino and had no clue about any of this until I walked into CAAM earlier.

Not only are they focusing on creating new information about a topic rarely discussed, but also they are doing so together. That’s huge in the art universe, and oh so different; let’s consider that over seventy organizations are exploring a single topic for PST: LA/LA yet most don’t really seem to have had a single conversation about doing so communally. Where CAAM is focusing on the History and Art of the Chinese Caribbean Diaspora, whereas CAM is looking at Contemporary Chinese Caribbean art. Translation: older works at CAAM and newer works at CAM. Now since this isn’t already enough amazingness; it turns out that CAAM will have a second round to their exhibition. Yes!! More Chinese Caribbean art coming to the CAAM near you. It so happens that many the works scheduled to be at CAAM were not able to arrive due to the weather the Caribbean has been experiencing lately, and instead of tossing the checklist of artworks that could not arrive, CAAM will revamp their entire exhibition and feature even more works of Chinese Caribbean art in a few weeks once the rest of the artworks arrive. So… three exhibitions for the price of one… kind of.

Co-curators Alexandra Chang and Steven Y. Wong thus went above and beyond to communally trace the history of Chinese Caribbean art from the 30s to today, including independent movements, migrations, cultural legacies, political and economic power and many other fundamental queries to this unique exploration. Now I write this article without having visited CAM but instead having visited CAAM twice (Yes, the exhibitions is that good!). Amongst my favorite works (shown here) are “Another Life” by Kathryn Chan, “Simultaneity” by Nicole Awai, and “Finding Balance” by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons.

The Zenith of the exhibition (and my newly discovered obsession) is a wonderful artwork entitled “Sink & Swim” by  Andrea Chung, work which examines slavery history, racial politics, and economic agency using sugar. The artwork appears to have started as Sugar bottles hanging from fish hooks, but fast forward a few months and it is currently in a sticky state of impermanence that has created sugary puddles of various stages of art decay in the exhibition space (see why I’m obsessed). Needless to say, the work will continue to live its ephemera existence during the exhibition and thus going to CAAM every day still means seeing a different stage of this particular artwork (similar to what is happening at Moca Geffen but was less creepy and so much sweeter).

So let’s go to CAAM every day (ok maybe not every day), but at least twice, once now and another time when the works arrive from the Caribbean in a few weeks. Let’s partake in the intimate conversation being had between CAAM and CAM, let’s learn about something so foreign, yet so beautiful that we fall in love with sticky puddles of sugar dripping in the middle of the museum floor. Because “There will be art…”

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