Art, Asian America, and the Social Imaginary
a poetics of positionality
The recent past has witnessed an explosive growth in Asian American cul-
tural production, prompting the proclamation of a “HarlemR enaissance–
like era” in the arts.1B eginning in the 1990s, an unprecedented number of
group exhibitions organized by U.S.-based art museums, arts organizations,
and university galleries specifically foregrounded work by Asian American
artists.2 Likewise, individual Asian American artists have increasingly been
the subjects of important one-person exhibitions.
At the same time, there has been a marked upsurge of interest in Asian
American art as a nexus for new art-historical writing and cultural criticism.
Established Asian American scholars are now bringing their insights to bear
on visual art.3 New generations of art historians and scholars in other disci-
plines are enriching this expanding and multivalent dialogue with critical
perspectives from postmodernist, psychoanalytic, and postcolonial theory,
as well as from literary, film, and performance studies.S uch views inform
exhibitions like “One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now,” which was
mounted by the AsiaS ociety in 2006 to profile works by younger genera-
tions of artists and to assess what has changed in the dozen years since it
presented “Asia/America:I dentities inC ontemporary Asian American Art.” A
number of foreign-born Asian scholars and curators are also applying com-
parative transcultural approaches that link works produced in the Asian
diasporas with contemporary works from their cultures of origin.4
An index of the changing status of this field is the recently published
Encyclopedia of Asian American Artists (2007).B ooks and book chapters,
exhibition catalogues, major monographs, and special issues of academic
journals are appearing, devoted to individual artists past and present:R uth
Asawa,T heresa Hak KyungC ha, Hideo Date, Yun Gee,C harles Higa, Michael
Joo,B yron Kim,S higeko Kubota, Maya Lin, Hung Liu, Long Nguyen,I samu
Noguchi,C hiura Obata, Manuel Ocampo, Miné Okubo, Yoko Ono, NamJ une
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