November 3-26, 2017
Reception Sunday, Nov. 5, 3-6pm
Artist conversation; performance with Emma Gies, violinist & vocalist, Sunday Nov. 12, 3pm
Discussion: Wafaa Wahabi, Wearing the Veil, Friday Nov. 17, 7pm
Programs are free and open to the public. Parking is on the street. Accessible by public transportation: Orange Line--Mass Ave. stop, Green Line–Symphony stop, #39 bus
At Boston’s Piano Craft Gallery during the month of November, 2017, artist Joanna Kao shows work gathered from some twenty seven years of production. Violent suppression of the democracy movement by the Chinese government in 1989 turned the artist to political art. Two streams joined together then: the aesthetic impulse and the memory of injustices occurring in childhood. Growing up, she felt her parents’ obvious preference for her younger brother, their only son, originating in their Chinese Confucian upbringing. In finding common cause with other women, she realized that the pattern of devaluing girls and women crossed many cultures, providing material for a later exhibition on the subject. Eventually, Kao returned to the topic of family relationships with the series Hidden Geometry, works that combined old family photographs with John Ruskin’s diagrams on perspective to make visual episodes of family history.
The 2005 events of Hurricane Katrina after the levees broke started a new inquiry. The failure of government at all levels to address the storm damage made it into a far more serious human disaster and forced public evaluation of what America stands for. Sociologist Kai Erikson wrote, It is crucial to get this story straight, so that we may learn from it and be ready for that stark inevitability, the next time.
For much of her art, Kao aims to transform outrage. Neither knowing nor controlling how the artwork will be received, she nevertheless wants the precipitating events to be remembered. Visual images of destruction and degradation have unquestioned fascination, even sensationalism. Can such tainted beauty be used to delay the release of meanings inherent in an image? To provoke contemplation? To affirm our shared humanity in order to face the challenges ahead?
About the artist
The recipient of many art awards and residencies, Joanna Kao has shown in solo and group exhibitions in the Boston area, including the Boston, Newton, & Duxbury Public Libraries, DeCordova and Attleboro Museums, Tufts University and UMass Boston, Roxbury & Bunker Hill Community Colleges. Other venues were in the Dominican Republic, South Korea, Hangzhou & Jingdezhen in China, and the United Nations General Assembly. On the West Coast, the Berkeley Art Center, Chinese Culture Center, and Berkeley City Club have hosted her art. Kao also curated Engendered Species, the Cultural Context of Gender, The Quality of Quantity, and Collateral Damage, When the Battle’s Lost and Won.
She divides her time between Boston and Berkeley, CA