Global cities have always been places where old cultures and ethnicities collide and synthesize into new hybrid communities. The often complicated processes of adjustment are epitomized in California, home to America's largest Asian population. In this Koko's Love expo, above, Los Angeles artist Yoshie Sakai provides a colorful look at the unexpected results of encounters between Asian traditions and Western pop culture in an immersive setting that resembles an old time low-budget TV game show set. In melodramatic snippets inspired by Korean and Asian-American soap operas shown on monitors and projection screens in gaudy alcoves throughout the gallery, Sakai plays each character in a Japanese-American family, whose patriarch is a Los Angeles liquor store owner who insists on having a male heir for his business even though he only has one child: his daughter. Sakai's pointedly melodramatic and kitschy narrative sequences amount to an anarchic tale of assimilation in a mass media universe where sushi coexists with Wonder Bread, and like any visit to a large multi-ethnic city, the competing narratives and psychodramatic babble can seem overwhelming. Sakai says she uses “soap opera tropes to challenge the myth of the 'model minority' and to reveal complexities that underlie the guise of superficial “perfection” of being both Asian-American and a woman.”
The installations at The Front are arguably more conventional — at least, if your idea of conventional includes being stared at by the officious owl in Stephen Rooney's lyrical swampscapes, or confronting Claire Rau's wall of sculpted chicken parts, or Madeleine Wieand's dreamlike graphical excursions through the architecture of memory. But Vanessa Centeno's wall sculptures take us to an abstract wilderness of neon-hued consumer culture reduced to Freudian recesses and protrusions that taunt the viewer like visceral digital click bait: seemingly lurid secrets that intrigue yet are never revealed. ~Bookhardt / Koko's Love: A Soap Opera Tale of One Family multimedia exhibition by Yoshie Sakai, Through Aug. 7, Antenna Gallery, 3718 Saint Claude Ave., 250-7975; Summer Crush: New Work by Vanessa Centeno, Stephen Rooney, Claire Rau and Madeleine Wieand, Through Aug. 7, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980.
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