Return of the Asian American Modernist Geniuses

Not one, but TWO fantastic exhibitions are opening this June/July in the San Francisco Bay Area, and unlucky me, I'm living in Los Angeles. At least I still lived in Oakland and was able to catch multiple programs at the Asian/American/Modern exhibition at the DeYoung Museum, which tragically, was unable to tour.

Dewitt Chang is an art critic, someone whose writing I'm most familiar with from his regular reviews in the East Bay Express, one of my most beloved local rags. He is curating what sounds like a vibrant and exciting exhibition of paintings called GOLD STANDARD: Nine Asian American Modernist Artists from the 1970s, at the Togonon Gallery in San Francisco, opening on June 10th.

A few weeks later, an exhibition curated by the celebrated artist Carlos Villa entitled REHISTORICIZING THE TIME AROUND ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM IN THE BAY AREA is will open at the Luggage Gallery on Market Street. The goal of REHISTORICIZING is to complete the digital and written gathering of exclusively “first voice” biographical material of 23 Women Artists and Artists of Color active in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950’s to the late 1960’s, when their histories were undervalued because of public and personal hegemonic social and aesthetic scrutiny. The archive will be housed at the Anne Bremer Memorial Library, San Francisco Art Institute.

Mr. Villa did the world an amazing service by not only curating the work and getting it up in a terrifically accessible space, he also conducted a series of priceless interviews with many of the artists in the exhibit, contextualizing them with his own experience as an artist of color in the 1950s-1960s and the spirit of authenticity and the world of bohemia that existed at that time.

My personal connection to this subject is the galaxy of curators, writers, cultural fanatics and artists themselves who have gently guided me through memory and history to the lives and accomplishments of these artists of color who persevered to create astonishing bodies of work. This includes working with Karin Higa, Kristine Kim, and Emily Anderson of the Japanese American National Museum (where I now work as a curator of history) on biographies of nisei artists Hisako Hibi, Hideo Date, and Henry Sugimoto. I've collaborated with Kimi Kodani Hill on her book chronicling her grandfather, Chiura Obata, and with historian Mark Dean Johnson on a catalog of Labor Art of California and most recently, a book on Prison/Culture as seen through contemporary artists and poets both in and outside the prison system.

I urge everyone who ever gave a damn about living truthfully to visit both galleries and telling me all about it here.