Stephanie H. Shih
November 30th - December 4th 2021
Stanley’s is thrilled to present a continuation of New World Mall, Stephanie H. Shih’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. For this ongoing body of work Shih presents a network of objects mapping the diasporic nostalgia and culinary lineage of Asian migration and colonization. Each sculpture is a replica of an everyday grocery store item—Spam, Kit Kats, Marlboro Reds—as ubiquitous in American supermarkets as it is within East and Southeast Asian communities. The result is a collection of products that will hardly feel foreign to a Western viewer, and yet one that East and Southeast Asian viewers will recognize as uniquely their own.
The cultural significance of some groceries—like sweetened condensed milk for Thai iced tea, the Laughing Cow cheese offered at banh mi carts in Vietnam, and the prevalence of Tang in the Philippines—is rooted in histories of colonization and Western military presence in Asia. Sweets like Toblerone and See’s assorted chocolates have become popular as a result of marketing campaigns promoting them as new-world delicacies. Still other products are a result of a back-and-forth cultural interchange that followed immigrants as they moved between continents. While mayonnaise is French and Kewpie dolls were invented by a 1920s American cartoonist, Kewpie Mayonnaise is an iconically Japanese brand that is beloved in Asia as well as the States. Similarly, Kit Kat bars originated in England and are now ubiquitous around the world, but the phenomenon of non-chocolate flavors is uniquely associated with Japan.
The weight and surface treatment of each of Shih’s hand-held objects is so akin to the real thing, the effect is intimate and uncanny. From a distance each object’s resemblance to its culinary counterpart is striking, yet when inspected up-close the ceramics show a delicate and precise handprint that adds a touch of whimsy to the objects. The use of gloss and matte techniques in combination with the raised texture of the applied surfaces makes the stickers, jar rims, labels, and “paper” of the works extremely satisfying to view and feel. Overall, Shih’s mastery of the ceramic medium allows her to operate her language within any object no matter how elaborate or banal.
As with previous series, including the artist’s 2020 solo exhibition Same Same with Perrotin Editions in New York, Shih surveyed over 20,000 Asian American social media followers to gather a culturally and ethnically diverse list of Western products which “feel” Asian. Some products are so common in Asian cooking—such as Maggi Seasoning from Switzerland—that many people assume they are Asian brands. Shih’s process combines social research with technical savvy and humor, pairing Lactaid pills alongside cream puffs and Carnation sweetened condensed milk. These works negotiate new relationships between familiar objects, sense of community, belonging, and place.The exhibition’s namesake is a shopping center in the heart of Flushing, Queens, one of the world’s largest Chinatowns outside of Asia.