This week I visited the Shadow Shop at SF MOMA and became a participant in the “Nian Hua Workshop” a project of the San Francisco based printmaker and conceptual artist Imin Yeh. Those of you familiar with Imin Yeh’s work know that
she embraces an idea of the multiple print as merchandise.She brilliantly accessed
this aspect of printmaking in her graduate school project “Ben Jam” in which she produced 85 woodblock portraits of Benjamin Franklin and sold them for $100 dollars each. In theory the $8500 generated would have obviated the need for her to take out a federal Stafford loan for her degree at California College for the Arts.
This pragmatic, sardonic approach to art production dovetails perfectly with Stephanie Syjuco’s Shadow Shop project, a component of “The More Things Change” at SFMOMA through April 28. Artist Stephanie Syjuco has created a museum store with in the Museum. Functioning as a critique of the commercialization of the museum space (particularly during hard economic times), it s also a way for Syjuco to honor to the Bay Area Artist community that has nurtured her career. The sale of the 200 artists’ wares featured will result in 100% profit for the (local) artists involved. Nian Hua Workshop is a “live project” within Shadow Shop where Yeh enlists visitors to the exhibition be producers of a series of hand colored woodcuts the artist created specifically for the exhibition, images of (invented) beneficial deities for the Chinese New Year (Yeh has first hand experience with the sale of such “auspitious” cultural objects having worked in the store at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco). Far from sharing the glory of the artist’s accomplishment these visitors get a taste of the anonymity of assembly line production (they are assigned a number and given strict directions on how to execute their tasks). Aside from receiving part of the fruit of thire labors in the form of a print these workers do not enjoy the profits of the sale of said objects. Yeh’s ability to work in traditional printmaking forms while using them as a vehicle for her critique of consumerism and the commoditization of cultural difference is an inspiring lesson in the contemporary relevance of printmaking.
Nian Hua Workshop ended February 24 but you can still visit the Shadow Shop
until April 24 at SFMOMA.