Artists Explore Asian American Identity in SJMA’s New Exhibition

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Mail Order Brides (M.O.B.)
Still from Fiebre Amarilla V, 2011

Mail Order Brides (M.O.B.)

Still from Fiebre Amarilla V, 2011

SAN JOSE, CA — In the latest exhibition in its series “New Stories from the Edge of Asia,” the San Jose Museum of Art will present works by artists who explore the fluctuating nature of identity. In New Stories from the Edge of Asia: This/That, on view at SJMA February 21–September 15, 2013, artists take on identity issues—Asian identity in particular—via video, film, multimedia works, photography, and performance art. The exhibition includes works by artists of Asian descent, all based in California: Erica Cho; Candice Lin; Tran, T. Kim-Trang; and the artists’ collective Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. (Eliza Barrios, Reanne Estrade, and Jenifer Wofford).

“Identity is a social construct that constantly fluctuates,” said Mónica Ramirez-Montagut, senior curator at SJMA. “We often pick and choose the elements of our identities that we present to the world—and we reserve the right to manipulate them by enhancing them or denying them. In their work, these artists reflect the constant struggle, negotiation, and precarious balance between different worlds and look at gender as well as ethnicity.”

In her short film The Heart’s Mouth (2013), Erica Cho presents a queer/transgender story about two people of color: recent high-school graduates who try to make ends meet while navigating adulthood and community college. Mike Lai sees random similarities between Asian and Latin American cultures, such as the unlikely parallels among Kung Fu, Chinese Opera, and lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) that he highlights in his videos. Lai will also put stereotypes to the test with a performance art work staged on February 21 at 7 PM. Candice Lin looks at the politics of power in her video animation entitled Whole New Animal (2012). She challenges the status quo by creating patriarchal characters that seem powerful, yet she questions their authority by making them gender, race, and sex ambivalent. Eliza Barrios, Reanne Estrada, and Jenifer Wofford together form the artist collective Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. Through photographs and video, M.O.B. gently and humorously explores gender, race, and stereotypes of Filipinas. Tran, T. Kim-Trang constructed a mausoleum in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life, into which she incorporated a selection of objects from Vietnam and the United States that relate to her late mother.

New Stories from the Edge of Asia: This That is sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation.


Erica Cho is a visual artist, animator, filmmaker, comic-book artist, and founder of Cho Tarot. A resident of Los Angeles, she creates narrative and experimental film/video, installation, and drawn and painted comics. She has exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles; and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC. Her stop-motion animation Our Cosmos Our Chaos toured North America and South Korea as part of Still Present Pasts, a multi-disciplinary exhibition on the legacy of the Korean War. Cho’s work has been screened in film festivals worldwide such as the London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Expresión en Corto International Film Festival in San Miguel, and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. She received her MFA in studio art from the University of California, Irvine, and BFA from Pennsylvania State University. She has taught visual art and media studies at Scripps College, Claremont, CA, and Citrus College, Glendora, CA, and currently teaches video production at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania.

Mike Lai was born in Hong Kong in 1980, and came to the United States as a student in 1993. He received his BA from Davidson College, North Carolina, and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2005. His work has been exhibited at such venues as the Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art, San Francisco; GenArt San Francisco; and Southern Exposure, San Francisco. He received an Individual Artists Commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2007. Lai’s works are primarily site-specific, interactive performances, which he documents in manipulated photographs and videos. He often wears the iconic yellow jumpsuit that Bruce Lee wore in the movie Game of Death. He is fascinated with the ways in which Bruce Lee and Kung Fu genre films inform Asian cultural identities. In his work, he creates spectacles in which Team Bruce Lee—multiple performers dressed in yellow jumpsuits—“battle” other iconic cultural or pop-culture figures, such as Chinese lion dancers, Mexican lucha libre wrestlers, or superheroes. In doing so, he explores similarities between different cultures and questions stereotypes.

Candice Lin received her MFA in new genres at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 and her BA in visual arts and art semiotics at Brown University, Providence, RI, in 2001. Lin’s work been see at including: the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Milliken Gallery, Stockholm; Valenzuela Y Klenner Arte Contemporaneo, Bogota; the New York Underground Film Festival, and the Kino Lab at the Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. Lin has been awarded several residencies, grants, and fellowships including the Frankfurter Kunstverein Deutsche Borse Residency (2011), Sacatar Foundation Artist Residency, Banff Centre Artist Residency (2010), the Department of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs CEI grant (2010), and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2009). She is a member of the performance group Gawdafful Theatre and co-founder and co-director of the artist space Monte Vista, Los Angeles. Lin lives and works in Los Angeles.

Tran, T. Kim-Trang was born in Vietnam and emigrated to the U.S. in 1975. She received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and has been producing experimental videos since the early 1990s. In 1999 Tran presented her “Blindness Series” in a solo screening at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Two of her videos were included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Her eight-video series investigating blindness and its metaphors was completed in 2006. Tran has been nominated for a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts and was named a 2001 Rockefeller Film/Video/Multimedia Fellow.

For over 15 years, Reanne “Immaculata” Estrada, Eliza “Neneng” Barrios, and Jenifer “Baby” Wofford have worked collaboratively as Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. This trio of Filipina-American artists engages in an ongoing conversation about culture, race and gender in work that has included karaoke videos, museum makeovers, photographic psychodramas, parade performances, public-service posters, and professional bridesmaid services. M.O.B.’s work has been seen at the De Young Museum, San Francisco; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; San Francisco Arts Commission; Southern Exposure, San Francisco; the Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA; the McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte, NC; Green Papaya Art Projects, Manila, Philippines; and the Lunar New Year Parade in Oakland, CA. Video screenings include the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the New York Mix Festival, and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.


The San Jose Museum of Art celebrates new ideas, stimulates creativity, and inspires connection with every visit. Welcoming and thought-provoking, the Museum rejects stuffiness and delights visitors with its surprising and playful perspective on the art and artists of our time.

The San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 PM to 5 PM and until 8 PM or later on the third Thursday of each month. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free to members and children under 6. For more information, call 408-271-6840 or visit

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