Image courtesy of Alex Jen. Clockwise from top left: Polaroid of Hewson Chen playing drums, 1985; James Chen and his son Hewson, 1988; James Chen, Taiwanese Folk Style (Moon Glyph: 2016), cassette; James Chen’s guitar party, 1982; James Chen’s “x-ray art” of Chinese zodiac horse and dog, 1971 (materials courtesy of James and Hewson Chen)
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This groundbreaking exhibition focuses on the transformative power of music identity in immigrant Chinese communities from the 1850s to the present. During this period, disparate music genres converged with historic milestones, including changes in U.S. immigration legislation and China’s soft power emergence. The exhibition delves into how Chinese immigrant communities have yearned for the “old country,” fashioned new American identities, or challenged stereotypes through their embrace of music forms as far-reaching as Cantonese opera, hip hop, Asian American Movement music, Taiwan love ballads, Canto-pop, western classical, karaoke, Beijing underground rock, and many other genres.

The exhibition has received critical acclaim from prestigious art publications such as Hyperallergic and Art Agenda, which hails it as an “unmissable mixtape of the season.” Time Out New York ranks the exhibition as one of the 10 Best Exhibitions in NYC Right Now.

The exhibition is co-curated by Hua Hsu, staff writer at The New Yorker, and MOCA’s curatorial team: Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions, and Andrew Rebatta, Associate Curator.

“Putting together this show was like making a mixtape. It’s full of echoes, resonances, connections across time and space, proud defiance and soft-neon sappiness,” says Hua Hsu, co-curator and staff writer at The New Yorker. “We knew it was impossible to tell some definitive story about music’s role in Chinese American life. Instead, we tried to mix together as much of it as we could, from the epic performers to everyday fandom. It’s about what happens when sounds cross borders or beckon you home.”