The Jetsons zipping through a classical Chinese landscape? A geisha posed to hurl a curveball at a baseball-bat wielding samurai warrior? Pez dispensers sporting not Popeye but Mao. Bay Area-born and Sunset-bred artist Larry Yung calls it "Chinois Pop."
"I was flipping through some French magazines and the term 'chinois' caught my eye and I linked it with pop art," says Yung, explaining the etymology of the term. Yung, an admirer of Warhol and Lichtenstein, says he is trying to reinvent their work. "I grew up with pop -- animation, the cartoons, the Flintstones -- and incorporated it with classical images; it's a nice interesting combination. It's irreverent contemporary pop."
That would be an understatement. Yung uses traditional images to offer a sharp-eyed commentary on the way both the West and the East culturally assimilate each other. Using bright primary colors on meticulously sculpted and cut matte board, Yung's work literally leaps out of the frame.
In one piece called Chicken Soup -- the title of which gently refers to Jewish settlers in China -- a young Chinese peasant girl sits holding a matzo-ball dish as a chicken runs for its life out of the picture, hotly pursued by a hand. There is a sly, definitively queer edge to his art that snaps as it smirks: Witness the companion works Girls Gotta Have It and Boys Gotta Have It with Chinese versions of Sally and Sally or Biff and Biff handing each other condoms. Right now Yung's favorite piece is Femme Avec Sac a Main, a fully clad young Chinese woman holding a purse, a tribute to Ingres' classic nude bather.
This is his first Bay Area exhibit after showing in Hong Kong, Paris, Amsterdam, and Singapore. Why has he not shown here before? "The art market in San Francisco is dead," Yung says. "For being a very sophisticated and cosmopolitan city there is not really an art scene. It is time for San Francisco to catch up with other cities. I see myself as a leader of that." Big words, but see the work yourself through May 31 at the Big Pagoda, 1903 Fillmore (at Bush), and you might very well agree. The phone number is 563-8727.
-- Tim Kingston