This fall the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State opens Global Asias: Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. This major exhibition features the cosmopolitan, exuberant and subtly subversive work of 15 artists of Asian heritage who are adept at crossing borders – not only physical ones but also those in media, styles, genre and materials. Global Asias is the first large-scale exhibition to highlight the impressive scope and diversity of the Jordan Schnitzer Foundation’s collection of contemporary Asian and Asian American art. The exhibition will premiere at the Palmer Aug. 28 through Dec. 12, 2021, before embarking on a national tour.
Global Asias invites viewers to think about Asia not in singular but plural terms – encouraging audiences to understand Asia as a site of meaning across the globe. The artists in Global Asias were born in Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Argentina and the United States. Guest curated by Dr. Chang Tan, assistant professor of art history and Asian studies at Penn State, the exhibition provides an opportunity to move away from considering Asia as a geographical location and instead invites us to think broadly about how “Asia” has long served as an imaginative construct.
The artists represented in the exhibition are Kwang Young Chun, Jacob Hashimoto, Manabu Ikeda, Jun Kaneko, Dinh Q. Lê, Hung Liu, Mariko Mori, Hiroki Morinoue, Takashi Murakami, Roger Shimomura, Do Ho Suh, Akio Takamori, Barbara Takenaga, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Patti Warashina. All draw on a rich array of motifs, media, genres, techniques and cultural motivations to reflect and embody diverse “Asias” in a modern global context.
“Globalization, with all its spectacles as well as perils, continues to shape our daily existence,” guest curator Chang Tan said. “The Asian and Asian American artists featured in this exhibition allow us to see that the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is often misplaced and illusionary. We are on this beautiful yet fragile planet together. Art lays bare our shared passions and fears, and hence helps us map our entangled destinies ahead.”
The 45 works in Global Asias are divided into three thematic sections:
“Exuberant Forms” features works that reshape and challenge conventional views of abstract art by exploring new materials, techniques and metaphors. Kwang Young Chun (b. 1944) exploits the texture of handmade papers in his somber accretive monochromes, while Jacob Hashimoto (b. 1973) mimics the effect of collage in his tour-de-force prints. Jun Kaneko (b. 1942) “flattens” raku ware into explosive two-dimensionality. Hiroki Morinoue (b. 1947) and Barbara Takenaga (b. 1949) create intricate geometric patterns to evoke natural formations.
“Moving Stories” brings together powerful works that reflect on the experiences of migration, both within Asia and beyond. Dinh Q. Lê (b. 1968) appropriates and masks iconic images of the Vietnam War. Hung Liu (1948–2021) also finds inspiration in historical photographs, reinterpreting the genre of portraiture through the lens of displaced and voluntary immigrants. Roger Shimomura (b. 1939) borrows the visual language of Japanese woodblock prints and Pop art to render the lives of Japanese Americans incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. Do Ho Suh (b. 1962) and Rirkrit Tiravanjia (b. 1961) map their own diasporic trajectories, literally and metaphorically.
“Asias Reinvented” highlights two- and three-dimensional works that transform styles and motifs of traditional Asian art to engage, probe and critique contemporary popular culture and politics. The Pop- and manga-inflected fantasies of Takashi Murakami (b. 1962) and Mariko Mori (b. 1967) are rooted in both the artisanal heritages and the consumerist trends of Japan. Akio Takamori (1950–2017) and Patti Warashina (b. 1940) turn seemingly innocent motifs into uncanny portrayals of life, love and death. Manabu Ikeda (b. 1973) evokes Hokusai’s famous waves to create a surreal scene of planetary apocalypse.
The exhibition marks the first time in its 50-year history that the Palmer Museum has partnered with Jordan Schnitzer and his foundation.
After its debut at the Palmer Museum of Art, the exhibition travels to the Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, Tennessee, Jan. 28 through April 24, 2022; The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, June 4 through Sept. 18, 2022; Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, Montana, Oct. 13, 2022 through Jan. 15, 2023; and USC Pacific Asia Art Museum, Pasadena, California, March 10 through June 25, 2023.