In this free exhibition, artists Mik Gaspay, Jeanne F. Jalandoni, Charlene Tan, and O.M. France Vianatackle cultural norms and common perceptions of Filipino culinary traditions. Spanning many media—including sculpture, photography, video, neon, and found objects—the exhibition revisits ordinary kitchen objects, ingredients, and dishes common in Filipino cooking. Viewers are invited to engage with the artists’ interpretations and treatments of rice cookers, decorative forks and spoons, and balikbayan (care packages), as well as ube (purple yam), langka (jackfruit), avocado, banana, guava, tapioca, and halo-halo (an ice cream-based dessert). Though the items are mundane, they are the vehicle through which the artists elicit personal and collective memories and offer cultural connections that go beyond the Philippine diaspora (more than 1 in 10 Filipinos lives outside the Philippines).
“In the last several years, chefs and foodies from around the country have hailed Filipino cooking as the ‘next big food trend’, but that is a label that often appears only on ‘ethnic cuisine,” says guest curator Patricia Cariño Valdez. “Trendify-ing a cuisine dismisses the historic nuances and communities that developed it.” The artists invert the “trend” and explore their relationships with Filipino cooking, as well as issues such as cultural appropriation, immigration experiences, and how food can convey broader cultural meaning.
“Each of the four artists brings a unique perspective to questions around what is considered familiar or foreign, and to whom,” says Bridget Bray, ASTC’s Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions. “As the work engages visitors’ personal memories of food and culture, the artists broaden the conversation in fascinating ways.”
The exhibition title, Super Sarap, fuses English and Tagalog together, holding multiple meanings. It can convey something that is extremely delicious, an expression of excitement and affirmation. It can also imply an exaggeration in terms of scale: something that is beyond, powerful, large, and exceeding the norm (and indeed, several of the objects in the exhibition are over-sized for effect). The artists play with these definitions and mutate symbols, making them both strange and familiar, challenging cultural norms associated with food.Employing the universality of food, the artists showcase how culture and traditions can morph when one is far from ‘home’ and as traditions are handed down from generation to generation.
This exhibition will hold special significance for Houston—a city whose residents enjoy a wealth of culinary options, where Asians are the city’s fastest-growing ethnic group, and that boasts the country’s most multicultural make-up.
- Exhibition dates: Saturday, March 16–Sunday, July 21, 2019
- Admission: Free and open to the public
- Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 11am–6pm; Saturday–Sunday, 10am–6pm