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DOWNTOWN : Asian Artwork Helps Dispel Stereotypes

October 30, 1994|TINA NGUYEN

When Rachele Lozzi began planning art shows for her Downtown gallery, she wanted to capture Los Angeles' cultural and historical richness. This month's exhibit, "Origins/Transitions," explores the diversity of Asian and Asian American experiences.

Thirteen artists of Japanese, Chinese and Korean descent display a spectrum of perspectives on art, history and culture.

"Having all these artists together really gave me a sense of culture and cultural history," Lozzi said.

Lozzi chose works in a broad range of mediums, from traditional Chinese brush painting to computerized paintings.

Pat Tom, a third-generation Chinese American, returned to her cultural roots when she took up brush painting, an ancient form of Chinese art.

"As I was learning Chinese calligraphy and how to control the paintbrush, I was also learning the culture of China," Tom said.

With swift strokes of her paintbrush, she created a three-dimensional collage of a single lotus in shades of black and gray. Using Chinese ink chips in water, Tom added details to the veins of leaves hanging off a persimmon tree.

"My paintings are very quiet. With Western art, you need to stand back. With mine and other Chinese art, people have to come close to the painting to see the details, the small hidden images," Tom said.

Li Huai said she uses radiant reds in her bold paintings depicting images of her personal struggles with American culture, including isolation, seduction and confusion. On a three-paneled oil painting, stretching across the gallery's center wall, the Beijing-born artist and UC San Diego professor said she tries to defy the softness typically associated with Asian art. The work uses blood-red hues to evoke seduction, confusion and isolation in her bicultural experience, she said.

A first-generation Korean American, June Choi paints portraits of fictitious characters from novellas she's read or some of her own short stories. Using charcoal, acrylic paints and sometimes tar, her near life-sized paintings play with mermaid figures and a robotic, faceless version of Barbie.

A politically and socially conscious Grace Amemiya said she discusses her internal struggles with gender roles and environmental issues through her printmaking and etchings. She said her work visualizes an Asian woman's frustrations and inner strengths, unrequited love and the dichotomy of Catholicism and Buddhism in her background.

"My work is themed on life. I'm always carrying the array of emotions in my work and I hope people look at it and interact with the messages," Amemiya said.

Alex Luu, an independent filmmaker and performance artist, read his poetry at the gallery and crossed racial and sexual lines by performing a series of Asian American characters. Luu said he enjoys exploring his heritage and personifying the ordinary idiosyncrasies of Asian American males.

"People always expect Asian Americans to always be in pain. I portray the ordinary struggles of screwed up love, sexuality. People usually have a problem with Asian American men who are sexual," Luu said.

The exhibit runs through Nov. 5 at the Rachele Lozzi Gallery at the Los Angeles Hilton and Towers, 930 Wilshire Blvd.

Information: (213) 612-3965.

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