Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Shellie Zhang: What We Bring and Leave

By Patricia Frischer

ICA San Diego North showing until Feb 12, 2023

There are a small group of us that are devoted to the Encinitas 99cent shop off El Camino. Sadly it closed at the end of 2022, but not before we had scored some wonderful treasures: a clear magenta bowl which I used as a sculpture stand for a set of isomalt fingers, a Mona Lisa plate, tiny plastic dogs on which I glued scores of packages of glitter, tons of glue guns, shiny aluminum tape, the list is endless for 20 years of visits. I dedicate this story to that store which gave me hours of shopping pleasure for ridiculously low prices.
Shellie Zhang’s exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego North shines a lovely light on the origin of much of those goods that were made in China. She got her inspiration from the Toronto Canada dollars stores where much of the merchandize originates from Yiwu, China. Wikipedia tells us that this International Trade Market is divided into 5 districts covering an area of 4 million square meters for 75,000 booths where 100,000 suppliers exhibit 400,000 kinds of products. The products come from around 40 industries and include 2,000 different categories of goods.

Zhang is interested in how those objects take on new personalities which reflects their new owners. Means of Exchange showcases a selection of like objects arranged on a colorful background and photographed in a context of her choosing.  The names on the labels reflect the amount spent for the objects use in each composition. It is not the price tag for this “art”.  The ICA  San Diego North used a selection of left-over paint colors chosen by Zhang to set off each large photograph which makes a stunning display. 

The Facades, on the other hand, are a set of illuminated signs with no message or logo within the graphic framework. The attachment to the wall has a symbolically painted crack leading you to believe they are obsolete instead of waiting to be filled. Maybe there is no one there to see what is now gone. So we have a bustling shop in contrast to  abandoned signs. For me this encapsulates the fate of our local 99 cent shop.

In the final parts of this display Zhang invites us to fill in a typical shopping list as part of the Grass is Greener on the other side. Although she knows about American/Canadian borders towns, SD/TJ is the largest one she has experienced. She has started to collect objects based on some of those lists with a variety of different language labels and is using her time here to explore their origins. I believe she hopes to see some patterns, perhaps, in the handwritten shopping list, or maybe they will simply becomes the poetry backdrop for a new work. After all an artist residency is about exploring your surroundings, in hopes of creating some magic. 

Her lecture on Friday Jan 13 is 5:30-8:30 pm is shared between her and contemporary composer, Lei Llang.  After the talk, the  Art of Elan will perform as they work closely with each Artist-in-Residence to create a program inspired by the themes in the artist’s work.

You still have a chance to visit with Shellie Zhang in the studio on Jan 14, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

ICA San Diego North, 1550 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas, 92024
This exhibition continues until Feb 11,2023
Regular open hours are Thurs - Sun from 12pm to 5pm.

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