So we’re up and running with the semester, and I look forward to reading your comments and responses to the posts on this blog!
This week, I’d like us to consider the category of “Asian American modernism” that Paul Karlstrom works through in his article “Postwar California” in Asian American Art: A History 1850-1970. Karlstrom begins his article by asking: “Is there an Asian American modernism that reflects–as in the multifaceted hall of mirrors to which modernism has been compared–shared experience? Or are we finally obliged to consider individuals in terms of their participation within the broader modernist concept?” (231). He then goes on to profile a handful of artists whose work variously incorporated, challenged, and/or disavowed influences from the Asia-Pacific— from the “inauthentic” Japanese identity played with in Isamu Noguchi’s work to the Zen Buddhist influences on Hodo Tabase and Shunryu Suzuki” (Karlstrom 236-7). Karlstrom spends a short moment of time discussing Carlos Villa and his practice of “community-directed modernism,” differentiating this from the other kinds of modernist aesthetics discussed earlier in the chapter (251).
Based on this article and what you have already seen of Carlos Villa’s visual art, do you find this categorization of Villa’s work as modernist to hold? By what standards do you evaluate his work as modernist– do you use the kinds of criteria that Susan Landauer or Thomas Albright (from week 2 readings) have for defining a work as a member of a movement or a school (such as the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism)? How much does the outwards-directed model of action (what Karlstrom calls “community-directed modernism”) impact your understanding of Villa’s work as modernist, versus other kinds of criteria?
Finally, do you agree that we need to have a different set of criteria for evaluating “Asian American” art, or do you think there should be a universal standard for evaluating a work’s merit? If universal, what factors should these judgments be based on? You should think about how this week’s readings by Johnson, Chang, and Karlstrom evaluate artists and categorize them into discernible movements/schools/traditions versus the readings from last week by Landauer and Albright.
Posting reminders: your response to this post should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs long (4-6 sentences per paragraph). Engage with the readings from this week and last week to support your response, citing properly using MLA or Chicago-style citations. Sign your name to the end of your post so you can receive credit for your writing.