catalog essay


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

The third in YBCA's widely acclaimed, landmark series of triennial surveys, Bay Area Now 3 is a Center-wide festival that presents snapshots of the artistic currents and recent developments of Northern California's vital arts community. This exhibition combines a bevy of emerging talents in an exploration of work by some of the area's most revered yet underrecognized established practitioners.

from the catalog

Thomas Chang is best known for two bodies of work: Decadence, which portrays architectural details of affluent homes and plush hotels in Southern California; and Strip Tease, a look at the barren interiors of night clubs and strip joints in San Francisco. His new body of work, tentatively titled China Series, is an examination of Beijing, a city whose dynamic urban, social and economic changes are in stark contrast to the stagnant nostalgia and exoticism placed on it by the West. While the three projects seem to address very different matters, they all share the same theme - empty spaces. As a form of photographic anthropology, Chang's practice is to examine static environments in an attempt to understand those who have built and occupy the spaces.

His stylistic use of emptiness and the recurrent lack of human activity, serve as a metaphor for what the artist believes to be the invisible desires of those who might inhabit these spaces. Decadence depicts the materalistic accoutrements used to fill a spiratual void, and Strip Tease shows artificial environments that promise spectacle and satisfaction yet yield nothing. Chang's China Series portrays the desire of those liviing in this city to contend with the enormous changes around them due to the increasing availability of resources from the ouside world. Every photograph in Chang's oeuvre is immaculately contructed. Formally rigorous, he balances rich details with an economy of means, filling every sqare inch with well-considered information in an attempt to outline the invisible in the midst of it all.

René de Guzman
Visual Arts Curator
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts