Two new exhibitions set to premiere at Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Broadway Wash and Lube, 2021, by Jeremy Yuto Nakamura (image courtesy of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum).

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College will be premiering two new exhibitions starting Sep. 28. The exhibitions are titled Understatements: Lost and Found in Asian America and Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures.

Photo courtesy of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum.

Understatements explores the evolving layers of identity represented by the term “Asian American.” Eight artists: Understatements—Mika Agari, Emmy Catedral, Xingjian Ding, Kiani Ferris, Megan Mi-Ai Lee, Jeremy Yuto Nakamura, Sharmistha Ray and Yu-Wen Wu, express themselves through sculpture, painting, video and paper and encourage intimate, yet impactful interpretations of their work. This exhibition was made possible thanks to The Thomas Chen Family/Crystal Windows $1.1 million endowment to help establish the Queens College School of Arts and support Asian contemporary visual art at the college.

“Bringing together many artists around a central theme—the search for identity—is a powerful way to celebrate contemporary Asian American art,” Chen said. “I am very excited that this inaugural exhibition supported by me and my family will spur imaginations and dialogue within the community.”

Numerous people are expected to speak when the exhibition opens. Among the scheduled speakers are Godwin-Ternbach Museum co-directors Maria Pio and Louise Weinberg, Queens College President Frank Wu, Queens College School of the Arts Dean William McClure, guest curator Herb Tam, Thomas Chen’s son, Steve Chen and School of the Arts student Dolma Sherpa. Additionally, the artists whose works are in the exhibition are expected to be in attendance.

Artists of Asian descent in the 1980s and 90s were typically featured in ethnic-specific group shows addressing biography, family history and identity politics, thus increasing visibility and defining the Asian American experience. However, the artists in Understatements operate on a more personal scale, with their works comprising humble daily gestures, reflecting the ways they individually navigate their cultural history.

“[This exhibition] blends the mission of the endowment with our mission as educators,” Wu said. “To support art that inspires the viewer to consider diversity on a more complex level, to explore the nuances of culture and history that may exist beneath an umbrella term and forge new interpretations of the scope of diversity. It is the first in what we anticipate will be a continuing and productive series of events that explore Asian and Asian American talent and creativity.”

Material Pleasures features more than 65 works from antiquity to modern times. It reveals the breadth and vitality of objects across 5,000 years from diverse cultures in far-reaching geographical locales. Among the items on display for this exhibition are a canopic container for a jar of viscera that dates as far back as 2060-1786 BC in Egypt, a plaque with a male nude estimated to have been created in Egypt at around 300-399 and a marriage coffret with scenes from the story of Susanna and the Elders, believed to have been created in Venice during the 14th century.

By developing a teaching collection for students to be able to handle and study works of art and cultural artifacts without the usual constraints of a museum environment and creating a general resource for the wider communities of Queens and New York City, this exhibition attempts to honor the primary mission and values of the museum’s founders, Dr. Frances Gray Godwin and Joseph Ternbach. It was through their collaboration that the museum was able to attract several world-class collectors.

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum presents contemporary and historical exhibitions and programs that provide exciting educational opportunities and aesthetic experiences to the college community and residents of Queens, Manhattan and Long Island. It is the only museum in the CUNY system and the only encyclopedic collection of art and artifacts in the borough. With more than 7,000 global works of art and objects dating from ancient to modern times, the museum introduces visitors to works they might not otherwise encounter. Virtual and in-person programs are available and all exhibitions and programs are free.

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