In A Wonderful Offer, Austin Leong’s first solo exhibition in San Francisco, a three-part narrative unfolds, blending disparate temporal layers: familial footage from the late 50s, the sonic landscape of the 60s via a single album by the San Francisco Psych Rock band Fifty Foot Hose, and Leong’s monochromatic photographic storytelling. 

The projection of the family footage breathes life into the everyday, capturing Austin’s Chinese American lineage navigating and seemingly thriving in American life—new automobiles, dancing, poolside leisure, dining out, and Disneyland visits. ‘Cauldron,’ the “soundtrack” of the exhibit looks toward another San Francisco, reverberating as an echo, a portrait from a time of alternative cultural movements that made the city famous, again, around the world. Leong’s photographic work chronicles contemporary Californian existence, framing the mundane and profound—walks outside, driving, running in the forest, punctuated by architectural embodiments of suburbia. In the photos, it is a world of perpetual sunshine, a dream of endless luminosity. Leong’s 35 mm prints draw comparisons to Henry Wessel’s work from the 60s-70s, showcasing a formal and technical skill that is captivating. Yet, this vintage feel in 2024 renders Leong’s photos strange through their anachronism.

This blend of elements in Leong’s exhibition challenges the linearity of time and the notion of American progress as a constant forward march. Observers transition from the vibrant colors of 50s California—families playing, dancing, dining together—to the psychedelic echoes of the 60s through the album ‘Cauldron,’ and finally to the black and white photos that, though captured between 2017 and 2024, seem ensnared in the aesthetic of the 70s. Within Leong’s images, a noticeable shift occurs—the vibrant, energetic tone of the first gallery gives way to reflective solitude. Here, Leong’s photos depict an American existence marked by alienation and stillness, a contemplation on Western isolation and seclusion. It’s as though the American dream of the 60’s and 70s has been paused, then placed on an infinite loop.

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