The Chinese Culture Center (CCC) of San Francisco continues its annual Xian Rui (‘fresh’ and ‘sharp’) exhibition series with Into the Nearness of Distance, an immersive video installation by artist Summer Mei Ling Lee in collaboration with Karen Leslie Ficke and Adam Hathaway. An extension of the work by Lee, also titled Into the Nearness of Distance, will be on view concurrently this summer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) as part of its exhibition Bay Area Now 7. CCC was invited to be one of the fifteen visual arts partners curating projects for BAN7.
Lee, a 3.5 generation Chinese-American, often focuses thematically in her work on generational estrangement from a rooted but distancing culture. Into the Nearness of Distance takes up that theme, exploring the fragile relationship between absence and presence, capturing a sense of longing for but inevitable failure to reconnect with ancestors who once lived in Chinatown.
For the main installation at CCC, Lee engaged two other local video artists in a collaborative game of ‘Exquisite Corpse,’ building a process of generational disassociation into the creation of the work. A Lee family artifact, chosen without Lee’s knowledge, was given to Ficke as inspiration for a video response. Ficke’s video was given to Hathaway, who then made a further response. Finally, Lee’s contribution is a response to Hathaway’s work. In this passing from hand to hand, Lee ensures that recognition of the original object is blurred.
The three video pieces will run chronologically in the gallery. Visitors will be given hand held flashlights to light their way into the dimly lit gallery, but will need to choose between using the lights (which wash out the projections) or turning them off to better see the screen. At the end of the gallery, an image of the original family artifact will be on display as an unfixed cyanotype. The more that visitors use their flashlights to see the cyanotype, the more the image will fade over time.
Lee further explores visual metaphors for estrangement and isolation in the extension of this installation at YBCA as part of BAN7. At this site, Lee uses ephemeral projections on hanging fabric panels, moving gently in a soft breeze. She overlaps footage from two opposing projectors, creating an ever-shifting collage of double exposures that, at times, dissolves entirely.
Into the Nearness of Distance is CCC’s sixth exhibition in the Xian Rui Fresharp Artist Excellence Series that features the work of prominent, emerging Chinese-American contemporary artists. Launched in 2008, the series is the first of its kind in the country, providing institutional support, visibility and documentation for selected artists. Past exhibitions in the series have included Lure by Austin installation artist Beili Liu (2008), Chromatic Constructions by Boston fiber artisan Dora Hsiung (2009), O–Viewpoint by Palo Alto artist Stella Zhang (2010), White Ink by ink painter Zheng Chongbin (2011), and Orange Peel, Harbor Seal, Hyperreal by installation artist Adrian Wong (2012).
About Summer Mei Ling Lee
Summer Mei Ling Lee received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2011. Using a range of media, Lee's recent work draws from her personal ancestry to expose the limitations of the "consciousness of objects" and seeks an image of what transcending those limits might be.
Her work has been shown at Southern Exposure (San Francisco, CA), Kadist Foundation Gallery (San Francisco, CA), Tangent Gallery (Sacramento, CA), Woman-Made Gallery (Chicago, IL), Sanchez Art Center (Pacifica, CA), University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA), Studio 110 Projects (Sausalito, CA), Bamboo Curtain Studio (Taipei), Fei Contemporary Art Center (Shanghai). Lee is based in San Francisco.
About the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco
The Chinese Culture Foundation was established in 1965 during the Civil Rights era. Its mission is to spark intercultural discovery through art, education and engagement. The primary program site is the Chinese Culture Center, located at 750 Kearny St. in San Francisco, which houses its Visual Art Gallery and the Center’s auditorium. Over 60,000 constituents engaged in the Foundation’s programming last year, reaching a growing number of international audiences through its art exhibitions. Since 1981, the Center has increasingly developed programs of contemporary relevance such as the Xian Rui Fresharp Artist Excellence Series and the Present Tense Biennial.
In addition to programs in the Visual Art Gallery, the Chinese Culture Foundation reaches nontraditional art audiences through its off site exhibitions, with public art projects and exhibitions throughout San Francisco and in alternative spaces, including a pop-up gallery and murals in Chinatown. The Foundation has also curated exhibitions at YBCA, Asian Art Museum, Berkeley Art Museum, Miami Beach Urban Studios, Silicon Valley Asian Art Center and more.