Categories: Arts Visual Arts

‘New Urban Legend’ exhibit tackles social issues

Artists and curators from the Bay Area and China address power, displacement, economic divides and other issues affecting neighborhoods and residents in “New Urban Legend: Resistance of Space,” an exhibition presented by the Chinese Culture Center.

Continuing through July 16 at 41 Ross, a gallery and neighborhood space in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the compact but substantial show consists of four commissioned, socially-themed projects made with the involvement of local communities.

Oakland-based Weston Teruya creates paper sculptures to examine the history, geography and social issues of communities and built environments.

In “Ground,” described as a ritualistic performance, he revisits the 1977 eviction of 196 residents, most of them elderly Filipino and Chinese men, from the International Hotel, in San Francisco’s Manilatown.

Staged at that site, his project references the sad moment in city history when then-sheriff Richard Hongisto, enforcing the eviction order, broke down a tenant’s door with a sledgehammer. By using paper tools in this and similar performances, and by destroying the tools instead of the landscape, the artist is suggesting, metaphorically, an inversion of history.

San Francisco artist Laura Boles Faw, in her amusingly absurdist “Towards a Prosthetic Power: Day One, One Day,” addresses power- and gender-related subjects.

Inspired by the beards found on sculptures of female Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, and interested in how the concept of power is, sometimes ridiculously, conveyed in public, Faw created wearable beards and photographed residents wearing them.

She projected these and other gender-equality-themed images onto public monuments and structures, including statues in Golden Gate Park. The exhibition includes a display of her beards.

“Residents,” one of the show’s two international components, contains presentations by eight individuals and groups from the Pearl River Delta — the first region of China significantly affected by China’s economic reform of the 1990s.

The project focuses on residents’ rights, living spaces and related issues. Participants range from the neighborhood market stall Kai Fong Pai Dong to the artist Qiong Wu, who researches the identities of unclaimed corpses.

“Sightlines,” from Hong Kong, looks at that territory’s busy landscapes and considers how the collaborative spirit sparked by the Umbrella democracy movement can keep going.

Via virtual-reality technology, five artists respond to each other’s art and ideas. Participants include Kinchoi Lam, whose video piece features two trams traveling in opposite directions, and C&G Artpartment, a duo focused on the local art ecology.

“New Urban Legend” is part of CCC’s “Present Tense” series, a showcase for emerging artists and fresh views on contemporary Chinese and Chinese-American culture.

New Urban Legend: Resistance of Space
Where: 41 Ross, 41 Ross Alley, S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; closes July 16
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 986-1822,

Leslie Katz

San Francisco Examiner’s arts and entertainment editor Leslie Katz has been assigning, editing and/or writing news stories about the Bay Area’s rich cultural scene since 1997. Reach her at (415) 359-2727 or

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