On View September 25, 2014 - March 1, 2015.


[New York, NY] September 3, 2014 - The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) will present a solo exhibition by Phillip Chen, Memory Prints: The Story World of Phillip Chen. The exhibition will be on view from September 25, 2014 through March 1, 2015.


Chen’s body of work explores the intersections between American heritage, historical and personal narratives, and politically engaged themes such as feminism, race relations, and colonialism. The exhibition will feature fifteen relief etchings and an array of inherited objects from the artist’s collection. The constellation of inherited objects and etchings produces a psychic space where the interrelationships between object and image, and history and memory, allowing the viewer to openly interpret the associations and references in play.


In Memory Prints, Chen’s relief etchings are part futurist blueprints and part archaeologic shards, each juxtaposed in an almost Rube Goldberg set of relationships and movements.
Each schematic print conjures up enigmatic systems of visual images featuring cultural objects, artifacts and records enmeshed within the flat space of the print plane. Mathematical equations, grids and creation theories shape and connect the diverse narratives in each print.


“At once pained, calmed, hot, cooled, jagged, refined, transmuted—the haunted historical visions on print are the alchemy of a master printmaker. Phillip Chen is making sense of pasts not quite knowable for futures yet to unfold,” says Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, guest curator of Memory Prints.


Memory Prints unearth the emotional landscape of an inter-generational American family’s multiple pasts, present and future. Chen’s father was John Dillinger’s waiter in a private booth of the Jade Cafe, a Chinese restaurant on Chicago’s Northwest side in 1934. In My Father and Dillinger, Chen attempts to access his distant father through the mind of John Dillinger, the mythical, notorious gangster and bank robber during the Depression era.


The suffocating terrain of the Exclusion era, with its racial violence and marginalization, is made palpable and personal. Kuo Chung’s Release is a print inspired by the story of his great grandfather, a gold miner in California during the in the 1860s, who needed to sever his queue during an underwater fishing dive to save his own life. Another print, Presque Vu is based on Chen’s uncle, the only downtown restaurateur in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the late 1930s to serve African Americans. Cab Calloway, whom he knew, appears. Through these enigmatic prints centering around his family history, personal negotiations, and Chinese concepts, Chen reckons with the impacts and legacies of racism and the Chinese Exclusion Acts.


During the run of the exhibition, MOCA will also offer a series of programs and educational workshops. On Saturday, September 20, visitors can join the 'MOCACREATE: DIY Notebooks' art workshop and create one-of-a-kind notebooks inspired by the exhibition. Also on the schedule: 'MOCATALKS: Unearthing the Story World of Phillip Chen' features artist Phillip Chen and curator Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen in conversation on Thursday, September 25. For more information regarding the event schedule, please visit the Museum's website.

About the artist


Born in Chicago, Illinois, Phillip Chen received his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and master of fine arts degree from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work in print media has been exhibited in over one hundred and fifty locations and is held by public collections that include Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts, and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. His awards include grants from National Endowment for the Arts and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. Phillip Chen is Professor of Drawing and Printmaking at Drake University.

About the curator


Memory Prints is guest curated by Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen. Tchen is the founding director of the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific /American) Studies Program and Institute at New York University, NYU. He co-founded MOCA in 1980 where he continues to serve as senior historian. He is also author of award-winning books: New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown, 1895-1905, and co-author/editor of Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear.


This exhibition and related programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (Museum Program), with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, and Anla Cheng and Mark Kingdon.