Galleon Trade: Bay Area Now Five Edition
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Bay Area Filipina American artist Jenifer Wofford got the idea for the Galleon Trade series of exhibitions two years ago when, as a graduate student at UC Berkeley, she received a grant to go to the Philippines and study Manila’s burgeoning art scene.
The city may not be a hot spot in the international art world, but it’s not for lack of local creativity. “This whole exciting thing is happening there, and not enough people know about it outside of Manila and the Philippines,” she says.
Moreover, she realized, the U.S. government doesn’t put significant resources into sending artists abroad for cultural exchange, and the Philippines lacks the funds to promote its local artists.
So Wofford launched GalleonTrade.org (from the Acapulco-Manila Spanish trade routes of colonial times) as a grassroots effort to build the connections. Last year’s “Galleon Trade I” sent California artists to Manila to show their work and make contact with their Filipino counterparts.
This year’s “Galleon Trade: Bay Area Now 5 Edition,” part of the “Bay Area Now 5″ exhibition running at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, pairs five of last year’s local participants with Manila artists.
“I paired them up thinking there was commonality between their works, and let them figure it out from there,” Wofford says.
The exhibition focuses on themes tied to galleon trade today: colonial history, globalization and commerce. Wofford says she paired Bay Area artist Johanna Poethig with Manila artist Norberto Roldan because “they’re both artists who married elements of history and politics with a very accessible aesthetic. They both deal with recognizable images – they don’t work abstractly or overtly conceptually.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Yason Banal (Manila) and Christine Wong Yap (Oakland) deal with the issues a good deal more obliquely: she crafting light-based sculptures based on the nature of optimism and pessimism, he presenting a shelf covered with black furry wigs and a large black capiz-shell chandelier illuminated with a strobe light.
Filipina American photographer Gina Osterloh’s “Rapture,” the show’s keynote image, finds a woman in Western business dress kneeling in the attitude of one receiving a spiritual revelation, facing a poster mural of a gorgeous tropical sunset.
“A lot of us Filipino Americans have longing and nostalgia for that tropic environment, even though it’s something of a constructed fiction in our lives now,” Wofford says. “We grew up in the U.S., and it’s not necessarily ours.”
Wofford launched Galleon Trade to create a template for exchanges. “I may not be doing it right, but at least I’m doing something that somebody else can do right once there’s a foundation in place.”
Through Oct. 19. YBCA Terrace Galleries, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco. (415) 978-2700, www.ybca.org.
Mary Eisenhart, 96Hours@sfchronicle.com