At the center of Tomi C. Yum's stretched-out photomontage "Quiet Dissonance II" stands a dignified, older Asian couple, unruffled by the raucous American urban scenes to each side. The work illustrates Yum's studied attempt to find, as she says, "a balance between Korea and America."
She was born in Seoul, came to the United States to study art, and now lives and works in New York City. Like the other artists who make up the varied exhibitions of CEPA Gallery's "Uncommon Traits: Re/Locating Asia, Part II," Yum sets out to reconcile -- or at least to define and identify -- the unsteady borders between the culture of her birth and her adopted culture in the West.
The work ranges widely, from Susha Yungju Lee's Metro Bus Project, with its satirizing of Western concepts of beauty, to Yoshio Itagaki's yoking of images from ancient Japan and Thailand with such computer-derived images as the "cybergeisha."
Paul Takeuchi confronts his rare ethnicity -- he was born Japanese and Jewish in Washington, D.C. -- through photo sculptures that appear one way on the surface and quite another when seen in new contexts. Adopted as a Korean baby and immersed in Midwestern American culture as she grew up, Susan Sponsler mixes, in big multipart color prints, the realities of her life with loving Caucasian parents and fantasies about her Asian mother.
The exhibition digs deep into the assigned meanings of the designation "Asian," from the term as a label for racial stereotyping in the West to how 12 artists have shaped their identities in relation to a sometimes distant "Asian-ness."
The other artists, all Asian-American or Asian-Canadians, are: Jackie Chang, Young Kim, Karen Kosasa and Stan Tomita, Saiman Li, Louise Noguchi and Ho Tam. This ambitious three-part project includes exhibitions and public art displays installed at CEPA's galleries in the Market Arcade, 617 Main St., and in other venues within the complex, on view through Jan. 23 (856-2717). A satellite exhibition at the Campos Group, 1016 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda, continues through Dec. 31 (837-1016).
-- Richard Huntington