This spring, The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University will present A Step in Time Across the Line: Recent Work by Chee Wang Ng, the artist’s first solo museum presentation. Featuring large-scale conceptual photography, video, and installation work, including two new series of works that have never before been shown, the exhibition will shed light on traditional Chinese culture and the immigrant experience. Through the use of iconic Chinese symbols, artifacts, and Western memorabilia—such as porcelain figures, rice bowls, Chinese postal stamps, and chopsticks—juxtaposed with distinctly American imagery, such as Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell's soup cans, the exhibition explores what it means to be Chinese in an increasingly multicultural and trans-national world, through the lens of diaspora identity.
On view from March 11–May 7, 2017, the exhibition, curated by Judith A. Stubbs, Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art at the Eskenazi, will communicate notions of Chinese culture through familiar imagery, inviting audiences to reexamine our modern construction of race and identity. The exhibition will take place as part of Indiana University’s spring 2017 Global Arts and Humanities Festival, China Remixed, a campus-wide initiative that will celebrate Chinese culture through lectures, workshops, exhibitions, films, and other public programs.
“Ng’s work tells an important part of the story of our global social history, addressing issues that resonate internationally, as immigrants around the world seek to build new homes in their adopted countries,” said Judith A. Stubbs. “What makes Ng’s work particularly striking is that it is very contemporary, with richly layered symbolism, but is also quite impressive formally.”
“Our aim is always to expand students’ worldview, and through this exhibition, we will provide a space for thinking more broadly about immigration and assimilation, issues that are very relevant to our student body,” said David Brenneman, the Wilma E. Kelley Director of the Eskenazi Museum of Art. “We are thrilled to provide a platform for Ng’s first museum show, which we also feel is a timely and fitting contribution to the dialogue taking place during the University’s Global Arts and Humanities Festival.”
With A Step in Time Across the Line, Ng reflects on the idea of empathy, or its absence, looking at times throughout history—from the Sampson Shoe Factory incident, in which police forced Chinese immigrants to replace striking shoe factory workers, to the Little Rock Nine’s integration into an all-white high school—when oppressed groups were met with hostility, anger, and a blatant lack of understanding. The work is composed of a series of miniature and life-size porcelain shoes that ask audiences to think about walking a mile in another’s shoes to better understand the past, present, and the circumstances that shape people’s actions. Also on view will be In the Name of Our Forefather – Clear Tea, Light Rice, an installation of 60 readymade ceramic white cow creamers that hang along a metal chain, symbolizing the major contributions made by Chinese immigrant laborers towards development projects in Western countries.
Coinciding with China Remixed, a global arts & humanities festival on the University’s campus designed to celebrate the most diverse and dynamic aspects of contemporary Chinese culture, the exhibition will offer a more contemporary counterpoint to the Museum’s permanent holdings of Asian art, providing audiences a more expansive view of work being created today. Ng will be on campus lecturing around the opening of his show, timed to the festival, alongside other notable Chinese artists and scholars, such as Beili Liu, a contemporary visual artist; Gene Luen Yang, a comic book artist and author of graphic novels; Isaac Leung, an artist and curator; Kelly Tsai, an award-winning writer, performer, director, and filmmaker; and Lü Ping, a Chinese feminist organizer and visiting scholar at Columbia University.