We Were Always Here

Heather James Fine Art
Jun 5, 2019 12:15AM

May was Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The month was marked to commemorate the first Japanese migrant to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 of whom the majority of workers were Chinese immigrants.

As an Asian American, I negotiate identities, existing as a hyphen, although we no longer hyphenate the term, while also choosing to complicate what that means. What excites me about this exhibition is that We Were Always Here both celebrates this hyphen while confounding it to meditate on the question of art and art history itself. There are artists like Masami Teraoka whose juxtapositions of traditional Japanese visual art and spreading American cultural imperialism finds humor while also commenting on serious political and cultural issues. Thereare also artists like Yayoi Kusama whose work does not seemingly have cultural traces and yet who said that “America is really the country that raised me”.

We Were Always Here showcases the diverse, boundary-pushing work by many artists who gained early recognition and only recently have re-emerged at a national and international level with major institutional support. One need only think of Ruth Asawa or Kay Sekimachi, both artists central to San Francisco, whose work literally reshaped our views and perspectives on sculpture. Art history is never settled and is always. a process. That is the theoretical thrust of the exhibition’s title.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the many contributions by and history of Asian Americans. As this exhibition demonstrates, these are not separate or marginal histories but intertwined, like the woven work of Asawa or Sekimachi, into the very fabric of what the United States means.

-Christopher Huynh, Exhibitions Assistant, Heather James Fine Art, San Francisco

Heather James Fine Art