This week, Martha Schwendener covers Astrid Klein’s “photoworks,” the group show “Godzilla” by Asian American artists, David Levine’s hypnotic “Dissolution” and Theaster Gates’s first solo at White Cube.
Odes to tea, kung fu and fortune cookies, as well as sly responses to racism, sexism and negative stereotypes swirl through the works in Godzilla: Echoes From the 1990s Asian American Arts Network, a two-venue show featuring 39 artists. The title refers to the collective Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network, which was founded in New York in 1990 to support Asian American artists of different backgrounds.
The works here are from that era to the present. Martin Wong, perhaps the best-known member of the group, is shown with his Bruce Lee Shrine (1993), a crush of toy figures and religious curios, displayed in a small gilded shrine. Skowmon Hastanan’s Victory of the Goddess (2001) is a photo collage featuring a famous Thai model who appeared in Playboy magazine, while Emily Cheng’s more recent canvases use stupas — Buddhist ceremonial mounds — as models for her abstract canvases.
Many more good works are here, including paintings by Barbara Takenaga, Charles Yuen, Kim Anno, Byron Kim, Betty Kano and Uday Dhar that borrow Asian patterns and techniques; Stefani Mar’s wicked Black Leather Tea Set (1993); and China Blue’s eerie 2019 sound installation, made with NASA, that captures the sound of Saturn’s rings. While the earlier works tend to be more biting and ironic — like the group’s name — recent works show the enduring relevance of identity-based collectives, particularly at a time when, as Dhar says on his website, everything is called into question, like “who gets to call themselves American.”