General Lee’s Banquet Room (a cogitation of the life and mythos of objects)
Materials: Artifacts from defunct 130 year old restaurant General Lee’s, Los Angeles’ oldest Chinese restaurant. General Lee’s opened in the 1800s at the Union Station area and moved due to the construction of the railroad station to its final location in Los Angeles Chinatown. It has been defunct for approximately 30 years. When the gangs moved in to Chinatown and Chinese restaurants began locating outside the area, visitors stopped coming. The owners, unable to let go of the physical objects that comprised the restaurant (including chopping blocks, tea pots , salt and pepper in their shakers, chopsticks, alcohol, soy sauce, monsodium glutamate, various decorative objects, wine and liqour, serving dishes, dim sum warmers, noodle makers, and other equipment) shut everything in the kitchen.
My first art studio was inside the kitchen of General Lee’s. I could barely move or work from the denseness of everything inside it. The remnants of the restaurant had been left untouched for decades, in the hope one day it would be revived. The tea pots packed in straw and stored in wooden crates still contained liquid tea, the soy sauce servers still filled with black sauce. The wooden chopping blocks were thick with 100 years of fat and food leavings. What makes something culturally important to an immigrant culture? Or to a mainstream culture?
This installation was subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas in New York City.