Curated by Luke Cheng and Simon Wu
Chinese parents often remind their children how important it is to 吃苦 (chi ku: eat bitterness), a phrase that means to persevere through hardship without complaint. This show is a meditation on the role of enduring adversity in the psyche of immigrant families, comprising nine artists’ work across sculpture, photography, painting, and performance. Just as each artist’s personal relationship to the chi ku mentality varies, each piece approaches the concept from a different perspective: as a virtue or a burden; with familiarity or estrangement; as part of an inheritance or against the backdrop of orientalism. Narratives of loss, alienation, and disorientation are woven throughout the work. The exhibition, located on the border of a gentrifying Chinatown, aims to be a space to constellate these ideas and for visitors to consider their own relationship to eating bitterness.
Eating Bitterness is co-curated by artists Luke Cheng and Simon Wu.
About the Artists
Luke Luokun Cheng makes honest but proud environmental portraits as well as pieces meant to generate social interactions with political implications. He is particularly interested in telling narratives of strength drawn from vulnerability, and exploring how the technologies we develop result in new ways of being human. His photography practice investigates his own queerness, the legacy of colonialism, and his closest personal relationships. Originally trained in analog photography at Princeton, where he studied with Deana Lawson, he has drawn from his experience in the design and tech industries to expand to other media, such as sculpture and digital products. Cheng lives in New York and was born in Jiangxi, China in 1991.
Jocelyn Chuang is a multidisciplinary artist whose photographs and sketches are guided by questions around semiotics and the human impulse to quantify natural phenomena. Her work straddles the line between photojournalistic realism and the uncanny, and imparts more questions than answers. Chuang holds a B.A. in Sociology from Princeton University and currently resides in New York city. Follow Jocelyn on Instagram.
Serena Gelb was born in Los Angeles to a Filipino mother and an American father. She grew up between both countries, living sometimes more permanently in one or the other, but always traveling back and forth. Because of this, she feels both strong connections and disconnects to both her Philippine and her American sides. She grew up using drawing and painting as a way to filter her world. At the age of fifteen she went to boarding school in Massachusetts, where she began oil painting for the first time. She then spent a year living in Scotland, where she lived in a small house with other artists and painted a lot of birds. Gelb went on to attend college at Yale University, where she majored in Art with a concentration in painting. Themes of identity, food, nature, and whimsy are prevalent in her work. She currently resides both in New York, New York and Manila, Philippines, where she works on her family’s organic farm and also paints.
Tenaya Izu was born in 1992 in Oakland, California and currently lives/works in NYC. After re-reading diary entries written between tweenage years and now, Tenaya concluded that they’ve always known everything, yet continues walking face down in foolish circles, still trying to figure out how to transform a chicken into a phoenix, to dissolve an infinitely reflective prism into nothing at all. Izu is influenced by storytelling, personal memories, comics, and signifiers of categorization.
Sydney King is a Brooklyn-based photographer who works primarily with large-format film. She makes her pictures by hand, building them through complex, stepwise processes. She wants to see if ordinary objects can transcend their ordinariness through photographic and sculptural means. She photographs various subjects – plaster molds, skin, cooking twine and yogurt painted on glass. Her photographs are scientific, but with soulful goo. To contact Sydney directly, email: email@example.com
Danni Lin uses self-portraiture as a tool to parse the multifaceted and often reflexive aspects of the self. Lin’s work is highly influenced by the history of figurative painting as well as Chinese propaganda posters. She endeavors to represent identity in all its facets, as both a tool of empowerment and resistance. Lin received her BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2013 and has exhibited across the US, including shows at The Diego Rivera Gallery and Cellspace in San Francisco, Art Share in Los Angeles, and Local Projects Art Space in Queens. Her art has been featured in print in Sapphix Magazine and online at littlepaperplanes.com. Lin works and lives in Brooklyn, New York and was born in Chino, California in 1992.
Emily Madrigal (b. 1995) is a photographer and sculptor based in New York City. She creates mixed-media installations about her body and her family. She began by cutting up negatives and scanning the fragments, creating photo-montages of uncanny childhood daydreams, transforming memory-objects into cyber objects. In her most recent work, she combined casts of food with photographs of body casts she made of her friends’ bodies piled with trash (like body-trash cyborgs). These two mediums collapsed the boundary between the surface of the image plane and the real by mirroring the plaster bodies behind the surface of the photographs. In this work, the glittery and grotesque silicone food casts, like sad, half-eaten anthropomorphic toys, mirror the plaster body casts and players in the surrealist scene she cut and pasted together in the photographs. Madrigal received her BA from Princeton University. To contact Emily directly, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LuLu Meng is a New York-based artist born in Taipei, Taiwan. Living and working in the States, Taiwan and briefly in Australia and Netherlands impels her to seek the difference and similarity among cultures and people. Her multidisciplinary practice, including installation, sculpture, photography, drawing and video, investigates the formation and fluctuation of individual identity in a society. Meng’s recent group exhibitions include Bronx Calling: The fourth AIM Biennial, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (2017); Delicate Failure, Flux Factory, Long Island City, NY (2017); Rewoven, QCC Art Gallery, Oakland Gardens, NY (2017). Her residencies include Residency Unlimited, Brooklyn, NY (2015); DordtYart Residency, Dordrecht, Netherlands (2014); Waasland Artistic Projects, Sint-Niklass, Belgium (2013). Follow LuLu on Instagram, or contact her directly through email: email@example.com
Simon Wu is an artist and curator informed by his identity as a Burmese-Chinese-American. He is a Museum Education Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum and holds a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from Princeton University. Trained as a graphic designer, his work uses publication, performance, and installation to explore social and political systems. Simon lives in New York and was born in Yangon, Myanmar in 1995.
384 Broadway is a temporary art space presented by THINK!CHINATOWN and Chashama. With the mission to increase representation of Asian American artists and themes of concern to our community, this project seeks to test new ways galleries in Chinatown can better engage the neighborhood with cross-cultural and inter-generational practices. This project is not a commercial endeavor and is largely run on the energy of community volunteers.
THINK!CHINATOWN is a collective of neighbors and advocates working to keep Chinatown a vibrant place of inter-generational learning, cultural production & civic engagement. We are here to listen, to respond, and to build Chinatown’s capacities as a strong immigrant neighborhood of NYC. Our mission is to attract & connect resources for Chinatown organizations & businesses using the tools of design & community engagement. Join us in connecting past, present & future to ensure a resilient Chinatown.