The Other 'Burbs: Michael Jang's Family Photos Defy the Brady Bunch

In the 1970s, the Bay Area was 86 percent white and just four percent Asian, according to U.S. Census data. Asian faces were rarely in visual media, except occasionally as TV journalists (Wendy Tokuda) and movie actors (Bruce Lee). So Michael Jang's photos of that period, showing the suburban Bay Area doings of his Chinese-American cousins, uncle, and aunt, are a stirring revelation. In “The Jangs,” we see Jang's relations watching TV, reading Mad magazine, and clowning around in their rooms — all “normal” family activities that punctuate the realization that “normal” images of Asian life were virtually invisible 40 years ago. Compositionally and technically, Jang's black-and-white photos are masterful. With their intimate (often funny) look at the life of a family with growing children, “The Jangs” becomes a kind of fine-art Brady Bunch. That these photos were first exhibited in 2008, and are only now getting a gallery show, means a new generation of art-goers can see for themselves what it was like to be comfortably Asian in the 1970s — an era that seems so close and yet so far away.

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