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Review: KOKO’s Love: A Soap Opera Tale of One Family and Summer Crush 

Yoshie Sakai’s Antenna Gallery exhibition and a fantastical group show at The Front

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Global cities are places where old cultures and newly arrived ethnic groups collide and synthesize into new hybrid communities. The often complicated processes of adjustment are epitomized in California, that state with America's largest Asian population. In KOKO's Love: A Soap Opera Tale of One Family expo (pictured), Los Angeles artist Yoshie Sakai provides a colorful look at the unexpected results of encounters between Asian traditions and Western pop culture in an immersive gallery setting that resembles an old-time, low-budget TV game show set. In melodramatic snippets inspired by Korean- and Asian-American soap operas shown on monitors and projection screens in gaudy alcoves throughout the gallery, Sakai plays each character in a Japanese-American family, whose patriarch is a Los Angeles liquor store owner who insists on having a male heir for his business even, though his only child is a girl. Sakai's pointedly melodramatic and kitschy narrative sequences amount to an anarchic tale of assimilation in a mass-media universe where sushi coexists with Wonder Bread, and like any visit to a large multi-ethnic city, the competing narratives and psychodramatic babble can seem overwhelming. Sakai says she uses "soap opera tropes to challenge the myth of the 'model minority' and to reveal complexities that underlie the guise of superficial 'perfection' of being both Asian-American and a woman."

  The Summer Crush installations at The Front are arguably more conventional — if your idea of conventional includes being stared at by the officious owl in Stephen Rooney's swampscapes or confronting Claire Rau's wall of sculpted chicken parts. But Vanessa Centeno's mixed-media wall sculptures take us to an abstract wilderness of consumer culture reduced to Freudian recesses and protrusions that taunt the viewer like digital click bait — seemingly lurid secrets that intrigue yet are never revealed.


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