Making Sense of Senseless Violence
Updated: May 23, 2021
#WhitneyMuseum #YasuoKuniyoshi #EdwardRuscha
Are we seriously still dealing with murderous racism in this country?
In 2021 “post-modern” America, ashamedly so.
I hope and believe that last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement has made a lasting, positive impact on American society, but learning of the 8 people murdered in Asian-owned businesses last night in Atlanta shook my optimism to the core.
Over the past month, a troubling number of news articles warned of escalating, anti-Asian violence, and apparently the media crystal ball got this one right. Appallingly, a certain class of Americans are being blamed and persecuted for the pandemic or whatever else that is bad in this world by another set of Americans...Wait, What? Seriously?
No matter the specific motive causing this specific crime, the broader social implications are unnerving, especially in a world hoping desperately that vaccines globally can bring us back to some sense of normalcy later this year. When we are able to openly socialize without fear of infection, social retribution or anxiety, what is that world ultimately going to look like? What will its values be?
Yesterday, I watched a thoughtful and emotional webcast from the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Art History From Home series, titled: “Asian American Perspectives”. You can see the summary of the conversation at the bottom of this post, which could have only been viewed live. You can register for future lectures here: https://whitney.org/events
The program highlighted an artist named Yasuo Kuniyoshi, who was a Japanese-American artist, living during World War II, when many Asian-Americans in the community were persecuted against and even incarcerated into concentration camps. The fear which Asian-Americans must feel right now shows we must not have progressed much in the 80 years since WWII.
Also featured was this work in the Whitney’s permanent collection. https://whitney.org/collection/works/26118
Painted by Edward Ruscha in 2004, for the American tent at the Vienna Biennale, this work of art was meant to represent the great melting pot of opportunity and cultural diversity of the United States of America, which for our entire history has attracted people from all over the world. I love the beauty of the various Asian written languages vividly pictured across the cropped-top of a profoundly desolate, LA warehouse. Intentionally, yet on the most subconscious of levels, the artist presents phrases in varying Asian dialects, which are comprehensible when read individually, yet have no coherent meaning when studied in sequence, according to teaching fellow Xin Wang. One can only wonder what Ruscha was trying to teach the rest of the world at the Biennale on behalf of all of us.
Diversity in this country is a blessing - especially when we all honor our mutual commitment as Americans to be kind and nonjudgmental when it pertains to each other’s freedoms and when we share in the common pillars of our democracy.
ART HISTORY FROM HOME
ASIAN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
Tuesday, March 16
This session, led by teaching fellow Xin Wang, will explore work by American artists of Asian descent, including Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Ching Ho Cheng, Martin Wong, and An-My Lê, alongside artworks that engage with aspects of “Asian-ness” by artists from other backgrounds, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha. Looking at these works together, we will consider what it means for an ethnic and cultural identity to be the frame through which we experience and understand representation and artistic expression.
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