BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now, a major exhibition that considers issues of ethnicity and identity in the work of an emerging generation of Asian American artists. The exhibition features more than thirty works by seventeen artists, most of whom were born after 1970 or who grew up in the U.S. during that decade, whose work is grounded as much in American culture as Asian culture. Working in a range of styles and media, the artists reveal widely divergent ideas about being Asian American. Themes of identity -- both individual and collective -- will be explored in a thought-provoking series of artists' talks, lectures and panel discussions, and readings accompanying the exhibition. One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now is organized by the Asia Society, New York, and opens at BAM/PFA on September 19 and runs through December 23, 2007.
Unlike an earlier generation of Asian American artists whose work made very bold and deliberate statements of identity -- as seen in the ground-breaking Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art, organized by the Asia Society in 1994 -- the artists featured in One Way or Another create work that is not dominated or defined by their ethnicity. Instead, "Asian Americanness" is a theme that informs, rather than drives, the artists' work. "The biggest thing we had to address was what constitutes 'Asian American arts,'" says Susette Min, one of the exhibition curators. "Is it art created by an artist who identifies as Asian American? Is it art created by an artist who has at least one parent who's Asian? Is it art that has something thematically associated with being Asian in America? Does it have to be politically motivated, or engaged with 'traditionally' Asian American issues?"
One Way or Another features artists primarily from three major regions with large Asian American populations: Los Angeles, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Four artists are based in the Bay Area -- Ala Ebtekar and Indigo Som (Berkeley), Mike Arcega (San Francisco), and Binh Danh (San Jose) -- and four in Los Angeles: Glenn Kaino, Mari Eastman, Anna Sew Hoy, and Kaz Oshiro. The exhibition's title is taken from the 1978 Blondie hit, and reflects the visible influence of popular culture on these artists' work.
The works in the exhibition range from paintings, drawings, and sculptures to photography, performance art, and video installations. Glenn Kaino's Graft (salmon) (2006) is a sculpture of a salmon made out of sharkskin that suggests appearances might be deceptive. Michael Arcega's large model ark, Eternal Salivation (2006), contains strips of different kinds of dried meat and is a satirical commentary on Hurricane Katrina, global warming, and the arbitrariness of survival. In a series of photographs, Indigo Som documents Chinese restaurants in America's southern states and shows how ethnic identity has become an almost invisible part of the contemporary landscape. Saira Wasim creates small paintings in the style of Indian miniatures that comment on contemporary international politics and themes such as globalization and war.