Stephanie H. Shih "New World Mall"
Sebastian Gladstone is thrilled to announce New World Mall, Stephanie H. Shih’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, opening July 23 with a reception from 6-9pm, and running through September 3, 2021. 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, Kraft Singles, Heineken, Ovaltine—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 Libby’s Vienna Sausages for Filipino meatloaf, Spam for Korean army stew, and Heinz ketchup for Japanese spaghetti—is rooted in histories of colonization and U.S. military presence in Asia. Other products like Marlboro cigarettes and Centrum vitamins were Asian American suitcase staples when traveling home, requested by family members who often lacked access to American goods in the era before e-commerce and international shipping. Sweets like Ferrerro Rocher and Royal Dansk butter cookies were popular in immigrant enclaves as a result of marketing campaigns promoting them as new-world luxury items.
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.
Stephanie H. Shih explores the diasporic nostalgia and material lineages of migration and colonization through the lens of the Asian American kitchen. Her painted ceramic sculptures examine the relationship between consumerism, cultural interchange, and identity in immigrant communities. Shih was born in the US, is of Taiwanese and Miao descent, and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Shih has had solo exhibitions at Perrotin Editions, NYC (2020) and Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, OR (2019). Her work has also been shown at The Hole, NYC (2021); Dinner Gallery, NYC (2021); the American Museum of Ceramic Arts, Pomona, CA (2020); R & Company, Miami (2020); Hashimoto Contemporary, SF (2019); Underdonk, NYC (2019); and Pioneer Works, NYC (2018). She has been featured in Hyperallergic, Cultured Magazine, Artsy, the LA Times, The Guardian, and NPR