Michael Yates and his three older brothers often gathered around the dinner table with paper and pencils to sketch the array of characters that influenced their early lives. They admired video game avatars such as Scorpion from Mortal Kombat and Ryu from Street Fighter, and professional athletes like Ken Griffey Jr., former outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. They frequently relocated throughout the United States and overseas, following their parents’ U.S. Army careers, turning to character drawing as a stable, grounding force, he revealed in his master’s thesis.
Yates fondly recalls the many colors that illustrated those early years: his mother’s duster from Hawaii, Filipino placemats, Polish plates, basketball shorts, and flip-flops. The family kitchen was another steady source of comfort, his older brothers helping set the table, the delicate aroma of freshly cooked rice and the pungent savor of fish sauce, and his father returning from work in his uniform.
Those vivid memories burst from the vibrant Four Brothers Drawing (2021-2022), a large-scale oil, acrylic, and pastel on canvas that depicts the intimacy and energy of the young men immersed in a favorite activity. A waggy-tailed dog playfully draws our gaze to the lower left, while a bouquet of red roses commands us back to the center, guiding our eye in a circular motion around the table.
Four Brothers Drawing is a highlight of At the Table, a private selling exhibition at Christie’s New York galleries, on view through tomorrow. In collaboration with Civil Art, a New York-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising the voices of marginalized communities through arts and literature, Christie’s showcases works from 30 AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) artists, including Dominique Fung, Yuri Yuan, and Hiba Schahbaz.
The mood shifts to somber as we engage with Aisha Rosli’s Can’t help him, Can’t make him better (2022), an intricate large-scale acrylic and oil on linen. Deeply influenced by Austrian Expressionism, Rosli’s lets intuition guide her figurative narratives that explore woman identity and gender relations. Her skin awash in blue, a woman faces us and rests her chin on the man she’s trying to console. A patterned background accentuates her femininity and solicitude.
Captivated by a jolt of empowerment, we turn our gaze to Amanda Ba’s Desire, Fulfilled (如愿以尝). Holding a lit cigarette in an oversized hand, a woman rests her ample bare breasts adjacent to a pig trotter on a slab shelf. Ba subverts heteronormative constructs of beauty, femininity, and sexuality, depicted her human and animal subjects is sometimes surreal settings that challenge traditional notions of nature.
Escalation of xenophobia against the Asian diaspora during the global pandemic gave rise to the to provide opportunities to raise the project, striving to raise funds for and amplify voices of the AAPI community. Christie’s and Civil Art partnered to produce a cookbook featuring family recipes from 46 members of the Asia- American community, including artists, chefs, scholars, and gallery directors. Food is intrinsic to our survival, shapes our lives, serves as a cultural archive of memory, and overcomes obstacles and stereotypes by bringing together folks through a shared experience. Inquire to purchase the cookbook.
Proceeds from the exhibition and the cookbook will benefit Heart of Dinner, a not-for-profit organization founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to combat food insecurity and isolation among New York City’s elderly Asian American community. Founded by Yin Chang and Moonlynn Tsai, Heart of Dinner delivers thoughtful care packages with illustrated letters and handwritten notes in the recipients’ native languages.