The Frye Art Museum opens a major survey of photographs, video, and large-scale installations by Stephanie Syjuco

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Frye Art Museum opens a major survey of photographs, video, and large-scale installations by Stephanie Syjuco
Stephanie Syjuco. Professional Rejects (film box from the studio of H.C. Anderson, circa 1970, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2007.1.30.6), 2022. Archival pigment print. 42 x 56 in. Courtesy of the artist; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; RYAN LEE Gallery, New York; and Silverlens Gallery, Manila, Philippines. Photo: Stephanie Syjuco.

SEATTLE, WA.- The Frye Art Museum is presenting Stephanie Syjuco: After/Images, a major survey of photographs, video, and large-scale installations that examine how the camera records and constructs American histories. The exhibition takes its name from Syjuco’s 2021 series of photogravures, which in turn reference poet Audre Lorde’s concept of “afterimages” as images that linger in the mind’s eye, inflicting residual harm long after our initial exposure to them. A centerpiece of the exhibition is the 35-foot-long wall collage Tender, Sifter, Keeper, Center (2024), commissioned by the Frye and created by the artist from research conducted at the Filipino American National Historical Society, located in Seattle.

Mining the archives of major US institutions, Syjuco engages with photographs and objects to examine how a nation preserves and narrates its own histories. The artist traces American colonization overseas, including the US occupation of the Philippines (1898–1946), as an extension of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Acknowledging the omissions and misclassifications that characterize national archives, the artist uses various artistic strategies to “talk back” to photographs. In Block Out the Sun (2021), for example, Syjuco uses her own hands to gently cover ethnographic images of Filipinos, denying the legibility of subjects photographed without their consent. Other works incorporate photographic tools, like color calibration charts, to reveal authorial control in image making.

The large-scale installation Dodge and Burn (Visible Storage) (2019) takes the form of a multidimensional “still life” and gathers over one hundred objects and images related to US empire, protest movements, and internet culture. Highlighting the ways in which US histories are stage managed, Syjuco sets the objects against backdrops alluding to postproduction and image manipulation: chroma-key green (the color used in green screen technology to superimpose backgrounds) and gray-and-white checkerboard (a background used to isolate images in the Photoshop editing software).   

For the newly commissioned installation, Syjuco spent nearly a year examining the photographs and files at the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), founded in Seattle in 1982 by community activists Dorothy Laigo Cordova and Fred Cordova. “As an artist who has spent years researching in American institutional archives and attempting to dismantle and critique the ways in which Filipinos, Filipino Americans, and Filipinx are presented though the lens of being colonial subjects, I was profoundly moved to encounter the labor of love that is the FANHS photo archive,” Syjuco shares. “My artwork centers the FANHS archive as a necessary antidote to the colonial archive, a site of Filipino American history intertwined with American history across generations.”

After/Images is accompanied by a monograph of Syjuco’s work that features full-color illustrations and essays by Aruna D’Souza, Georgia Erger, and Ekalan Hou.

Stephanie Syjuco (born 1974, Manila, Philippines) works in photography, sculpture, and installation, moving from handmade and craft-inspired mediums to digital editing and archive excavations. Recently, she has focused on how photography and image-based processes are implicated in the construction of racialized, exclusionary narratives of history and citizenship. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and has exhibited widely, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. She is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and resides in Oakland.

Stephanie Syjuco: After/Images is organized by Georgia Erger, Associate Curator.

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