At home with the Jangs, the 'Chinese Brady Bunch'
Updated: 2013-05-10 11:18
By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York (China Daily)
The photographs are on exhibition at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery. Photo provided to China Daily
Jang's grandparents arrived in the US more than 100 years ago, and subsequent generations have made a living as merchants in the dry goods business. His family has reacted to the new exhibition with "overwhelming" enjoyment and nostalgia, he said.
Stephen Wirtz, owner of the gallery, said that although the humor of the work is its most obvious attribute, the subject matter is equally important in terms of introducing audiences to an under-exposed segment of American history.
"What Michael was photographing was a part of America that most people miss today," he said. "This was a Chinese-American family that lived the American dream in the 1970s, and I think it's important that audiences can see them as people who don't feel like strangers. More than just humor, underneath is a far more important issue - the portrayal of Chinese-Americans as just another group of Americans living out their lives in this country.
"And this family in particular appears so well-adjusted and happy, that they're almost a Chinese Brady Brunch," he said with a laugh.
Sandra Phillips, the curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which initially acquired Jang's family series, described the work as both modest and profound.
"The thing about Michael's work is that it's completely Michael - just this Chinese guy looking at his family, and who they are," she said. "The subject matter is not one of earth-shaking ambition, but the photos are wild and incredibly unique, and an expression of a sensibility that is informed by his heritage.
"The Chinese-American middle-class culture is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, but these photos are not primarily sociological in focus. They're interesting because, on top of that, they're also forgiving and loving and imaginative."