Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art

Featuring works by twenty foreign-born artists of Asian parentage who have come to the United States to live and work, Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art explores questions of bicultural identity as expressed in artworks by members of the fastest growing immigrant group in America today. The artists came from China, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. They range from recent arrivals to thirty-year residents and work in a broad range of styles and mediums, including painting, installation, photography, drawing, and sculpture.

Published in conjunction with an exhibition organized and circulated by The Asia Society Galleries and guest-curated by Margo Machida, this volume features three essays and documentation on twenty artists and fifty artworks. A historical and theoretical underpinning is provided by John Kuo Wei Tchen’s essay on how over the last century Asian and American identities have been constantly renegotiated. Vishakha N. Desai recounts some of the traumas and triumphs of one person’s metamorphosis from Indian exchange student to increasingly Americanized expatriate to “Asian American.” Exhibition curator Margo Machida’s essay discusses at length the artists and artworks included, giving detailed readings of the sometimes complex cultural references and individual histories that help make the art aesthetically potent as well as thought provoking. Machida identifies a number of themes—traversing cultures, situating, speaking to and of Asia, and addressing East/West interaction—informing the art of these immigrant artists, whose work draws on their bifocal vision as insiders/outsiders in America and raises numerous artistic, historical, and cultural issues.

This book’s innovative design reflects the polyphony of the different voices included. As one of the first books on the subject, Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art makes a major contribution to the literature on an increasingly important aspect of contemporary American art. (Book jacket)

This title is included in “Holding Space: A Shortlist Exploring the Complexity of Asian American Identity”. Publications that address the complexities of the Asian American and Asian diasporic experience in the field of contemporary art are few and far between. As an organization based in the U.S. and serving a diasporic Asian community, we have experienced firsthand both the desire for knowledge in this space as well as the frustration due to its paucity. “​​Holding Space” is a shortlist composed of a selection of publications housed at our reading room that begins to redress this scarcity. This list is by no means exhaustive; rather, it represents the start of a continued commitment to fill this gap.