Course Content



MORNING: Orientation tour for participants, A/P/A Institute at NYU

Lai Yong, self portrait, circa 1870.

AFTERNOON KEYNOTE: Mark Johnson, Professor of Art and Gallery Director, San Francisco State University on Asian American Art: A History

Mark Johnson will provide an overview of the emerging field of Asian American art history, discussing the fifteen year research initiative that resulted in the publication of Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (2008) and the exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, “Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900-1970” (2008), for which he was co-curator.  This landmark project helped define the field of Asian American art and the publication that resulted from it Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 will serve as important background for this session as well as for others during the Institute. This keynote will introduce the field and outline key issues of accessibility, archives, teaching, and other recent developments in the field that will be discussed throughout the Summer Institute.

A response follows with Keynote Discussant Vishakha N. Desai, President and CEO of Asia Society



J.T. Sata (1896-1975)
Untitled (Portrait), ca. 1928
Japanese American National Museum

MORNING: Karin Higa, Senior Adjunct Curator at the Japanese American National Museum on “At the Margins of American Modernism: Los Angeles, Little Tokyo, and Japanese American Artists, 1919-1945, A Case Study” 

The artistic activity centered in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo between the two World Wars presents a dynamic nexus of artists, art, audiences, and intellectual exchange that has been scantily explored. Using the neighborhood as a case study, Higa will situate the work of the Little Tokyo Japanese American artists within broader cultural and artistic discourses in Los Angeles, the United States, and internationally. The artists in Little Tokyo grappled with what it meant to be modern and explored the contours of modernist form in their art.

AFTERNOON: Tom Wolf, Professor of Art History at Bard College.
Part 1. Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) and Isamu Noguchi (1905-1988).

The first of two lectures on these artists defines their careers in the context of the U.S. and other Japanese American artists creating during their time.

This session will provide a brief survey of Japonisme, the European and American vogue for Japanese art, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wolf will look at Yasuo Kuniyoshi, perhaps the best known early Japanese artist besides Noguchi, reviewing his career and relating him to other lesser-known artists, such as Eitaro Ishigaki and Toshio Shimizu, both of whom were born in Japan and worked in the United States.


WEDNESDAY: Devoted to field research, reading, and consulting with Institute directors. 



MORNING: Tom Wolf, Professor of Art History at Bard College.
Part 2. Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) and Isamu Noguchi (1905-1988).

The second of two lectures on these artists examines their work in the international artistic and political milieu. Wolf will explore the art and careers of Isamu Noguchi, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Tsuguharu Foujita, Hideo Noda, and Eitaro Ishigaki, Japanese nationals who lived in America but worked in Paris and Mexico as well as New York.  Selections from Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 illuminate their art in the context of both American and international artistic and political developments. The session will also consider the lives of several of these Japanese American artists during World War II and how this period is reflected in their art.

AFTERNOON:  Free for reading, research, and consulting with Institute directors.



MORNING: Karin Higa, Senior Adjunct Curator, Japanese American National Museum on “The Long and Curious Life of Isamu Noguchi: Monographic Approaches in Asian American Art History”. This lecture will take place at the Noguchi Museum.

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a polymath whose work in sculpture, landscape, and design made a profound and lasting impact on American culture. Born to an American mother and Japanese father, Noguchi literally and figuratively lived between the spheres of “East” and “West,” navigating multiple identities, modes of working, and critical responses to his art. This session will survey the literature on Noguchi to evaluate the ways in which Noguchi’s Asian American heritage was treated at different historical moments.

AFTERNOON TOUR: The Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum was founded and designed by Isamu Noguchi for the display of what he considered to be representative examples of his life’s work. Participants will tour the museum with the administrative director of the museum Amy Hau and view the permanent collection and open-air sculpture garden.  The museum regularly presents temporary exhibitions that offer a contextualized view of Noguchi’s work.



MORNING: John Kuo Wei Tchen, Director, Asian/Pacific/American Institute, NYU, will lead a tour of the Museum of Chinese in America and discuss “Opening Up Dialogues and Interpretations of the Visual Arts”

This session will take place within the Museum’s core exhibition “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America” and the nearby Manhattan’s historic Chinatown. It will consider visual art within the larger realm of Asian American visual culture and the impact of visuality (whether in photography, art, film, advertising, tourist goods, or propaganda) in shaping Western audiences’ perceptions of their historical moment, place, social position, and attitudes toward Asian peoples.  The readings set forth a theoretical framework for considering how individuals come to perceive and engage with the world around them and the role that visuality plays in either constraining or liberating them to see their social environment in new ways.





Painting by Don Ahn, Zen #3, 1962, ink on paper.

Painting by Chinyee, Markings #2 A.M., 1965,
watercolor on paper.

MORNING: Jeffrey Wechsler, Senior curator at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University on “American-type Painting” and/or “Asian American-type Painting”: an East/West Synthesis

This session will focus upon American artists of East Asian ancestry (China, Japan, Korea) whose work comprises a still largely unnoticed section of Abstract Expressionism. For these artists, many of the formal, technical, and even philosophical aspects of Abstract Expressionism had predecessors within traditions of East Asian artistic practice. It will re-examine the Asian American painterly abstractionists who, between 1945 and 1970, brought together their personal experience of Asian aesthetics with American abstract modes, creating a modern artistic synthesis of East and West.  Readings include texts on artists who synthesize the more abstract East Asian technical visual traditions with the modes of painterly abstraction that developed during the era of Abstract Expressionism.

AFTERNOON: Visit to the Museum of Modern Art
Midori Yoshimoto will lead a visit to the Museum of Modern Art to view the new holdings of the Silverman Fluxus Collection. Yoshimoto will also arrange a rare opportunity to view Asian American artists’ works from the museum’s collection.

Fluxkit. 1965-66, Fluxus Edition
announced 1964.
Vinyl-covered attaché
case containing objects in various mediums.
Assembled by George Maciunas.
11 x 44 x 28″
(27.9 x 111.8 x 71.1 cm).
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008.


MORNING: Midori Yoshimoto, Associate Professor of Art History, New Jersey City University on “Fluxus Nexus/Tokyo-New York” 

Fluxus included an unusually large number of Japanese artists such as Yoko Ono, Ay-O, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi, Sigeko Kubota, Takehisa Kosugi, and Yasunao Tone, as well as a Korean artist Nam June Paik. Through frequent travels and correspondence, these artists bridged communities in Tokyo and New York, infusing Fluxus concepts and events with new artistic developments in Japan. This session will illuminate artistic exchanges that forged a nexus between New York and Tokyo and beyond. Readings will inform a discussion of how Fluxus established its transnational network in the early 1960s and if the Fluxus mode of transnational collective is still valid today.


Photo of Po Kim, 2011
Photo of Po Kim, 1989.

AFTERNOON: Panel discussion led by Jeffrey Wechsler, Curator, Zimmerli Museum, featuring Asian American artists Chinyee, Chuang Che, Po Kim, and Ralph Iwamoto. The panel will take place at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery. Following the lecture, participants will be treated to a tour of the gallery led by Jeffrey Wechsler.

This panel will provide the opportunity for Institute participants to interact with senior Asian American artists.  The artists will speak of their experiences during the Abstract Expressionist era, offering a “living history” of the creation of work that bridged two cultures.  The artists will focus upon the difficulties they had in presenting hybrid art in an art world tied to the concept of the “Americanness” of Abstract Expressionism.

Painting by Po Kim, untitled,
1961, Oil on canvas.

The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery was founded by Korean born American artist Po Kim and his wife, American artist Sylvia Wald.

WEDNESDAY:Devoted to field research, reading, and consulting with Institute directors.


Wai Hookahe, 2007
Foam, epoxy, plastic tubing, pump, water, wood
36″ x 46 5/8″ x 46 5/8″

MORNING: Margo Machida, Assoc. Professor, Art History & Asian American Studies, Univ. of CT, on “Orality, Art Histories, and Interpretation in Asian American Art”

Art objects provide a highly visible platform for the intersection of subjectivity and the social imaginary, and interviews and dialogue with artists offer a primary means of drawing out and articulating the distinctive sensibilities, life experiences, and world views that catalyze and shape such creative production. This session addresses different uses of evidence from direct oral exchange with living visual artists of Asian heritages in the United States.

Key questions will focus on the place and orientation of the interviews, the type of information that was elicited, the passages that are especially incisive in understanding the artist and the work, as well as unexplored lines of inquiry that suggest directions for future research.

AFTERNOON: Dipti Desai, Associate Professor and Director of the Art Education Program, NYU, on “Teaching, Archives, and Asian American Art”

Recently, several Asian American contemporary artists have examined archives through the medium of exhibitions, art books, and symposiums — interpreting, contesting, redefining, and even reinventing our understanding of these collections.  Institute participants will examine the ways these artists, including Institute Faculty member Tomie Arai, have referenced the archive in their work and in doing so raise questions about the nature and meaning of archives.


MORNING: Marvin Taylor, Director at NYU Fales Library & Special Collections on “Collections Building: Artist papers and Archives at Fales Library & Special Collections”

Fales Library & Special Collections include important Asian American artists’ papers such as those of Martin Wong, Yun Gee, and Godzilla: Asian American Art Network. As participants view selected items from the archive, they will explore issues related to their acquisition, preservation, and access as well as their use for teaching and exhibitions. Known for leading the Downtown Collection initiative at NYU, Taylor will discuss the methodology of building key resources for art historical research and scholarship.


The Shape of Me, Tomie Arai.

A Lecture with Artist Tomie Arai.

Arai is a printmaker and installation artist who has worked collaboratively with diverse communities for over two decades. Her collaborative work includes projects with Vietnamese and Cambodian youth in South Philadelphia; Chicano and Asian artists from Little Tokyo and East Los Angeles; prints about the internment experience of Japanese Americans on the Pima and Colorado River Indian reservations in Arizona during World War II; a mural memorializing the discovery of an African Burial Ground in New York City; and installations about the emerging community of Chinese Latinos in Miami. Arai will discuss her work as community-based social practice that explores themes of displacement, migration, hybridity, and cultural history.

A Lecture with Jaishri Abichandani

Hearts of Darkness,
courtesy of the artist.

Jaishri Abichandani will be speaking on her art and her work in arts activism inn New York and internationally. Born in Bombay, India, Jaishri Abichandani immigrated to New York City in 1984. Jaishri has continued to intertwine art and activism in her career, founding and leading the important South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, (,) in New York and London since 1997. She has exhibited her work internationally and has curated exhibitions including Fatal Love: South Asian American Art Now and Queens International 2006 Everything All at Once.Sultana’s DreamExploding the Lotus, Artists in Exile, Shapeshifters and Aliens, Anomalies and Transitional Aesthetics.


MORNING:  Visit to the home of choreographer Muna Tseng and the estate of her brother, artist Tseng Kwong Chi. Discussion led by Dipti Desai.

Tseng Kwong Chi (born 1950, Hong Kong; died 1990, New York) is internationally known for his photographic Expeditionary Self-Portrait Series a.k.a. East Meets West. In over 100 images, he poses in front of iconic architecture, dressed in a classic Mao suit, as his invented artistic persona — a Chinese “Ambiguous Ambassador”. Tseng was also an important documentarian and denizen of the downtown 1980s New York club and art scene. He created more than 100,000 color and black-and-white photographs of his contemporaries Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, McDermott and McGough, Kenny Scharf, Philip Taaffe, Madonna, Grace Jones, the B-52’s, and Fab Five Freddy, among others. The Estate’s collection includes over 75,000 photographs and slides and numerous publications on the artist. Participants will view the archives and Dipti Desai will lead a discussion with Muna Tseng about the historical and creative uses of artists’ archives.



Kirin, Tomokazu Matsuyama
60 in x 60 in, 2006
acrylic on canvas

MORNING: Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Programs, A/P/A Institute, NYU, on “The Art of Cosmopolitanism: Contemporary Asian American Art”

This session looks at post-1990s Asian American art, exploring transcultural flows of art production and artists. It will investigate international artist collectives and artistic production as they relate to theories of globalism. Examples will be drawn from a range of post-90s artists and collectives including Tomokazu Matsuyama, Godzilla, The New Grand Tour, and Tomato Grey. Readings related to this session explore ideas of art and diaspora, transculturality, hybridity, localism, cosmopolitanism, and globalism and its critiques.

Last Banquet, Zhang Hongtu
Laser prints, pages from the Red Book and acrylic on canvas
60 x 168 inch, 1989.

AFTERNOON: Studio visit with artist Zhang Hongtu.
A lecture by the artist and discussion led by Alexandra Chang.

Participants will meet Chinese American artist Zhang Hongtu during a visit to this home and studio in Queens. Zhang is known for his “Pop Mao” work created after the 1989 student protests as well as his involvement with New York Asian Diasporic art scene and Chinese artists who moved here in 1989. Zhang will address the themes of hybridity and agency in his work as well as in Asian American art, more generally and engage in a discussion with the participants.


Asia Society building, NYC

MORNING: Melissa Chiu, Museum Director & Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian-American Art, Asia Society, will lead a tour of The Asia Society Gallery and Museum

Melissa Chiu will talk to the participants about the Asia Society Museum and its global mission (in particular the relationship between Asia and NYC), focusing on shows that include Asian diasporic artists and Asian American artists. Chiu will address the issues that surround ethnic-specific museums and lead a gallery and collections tour, showing selected works by Asian American artists from the Museum’s collection. The primary resource for this session will be One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now (2006), an exhibition catalogue which discusses the shifting meaning of Asian America over the last decade and looks at the way that the Asia Society’s curators frame the work of Asian American artists in an increasingly globalized society.

Martin Wong
Taino Invasion from Outer Space, 1993 (detail)
Bronx Museum Permanent Collection
Gift of Yasmin Ramirez

AFTERNOON: Visit to the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Tour and discussion led by Sergio Bessa, Director of Curatorial and Educational Programs at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Participants will be given a tour of the Bronx Museum and will view the museum’s extensive Asian American art collection. The museum’s Asian American art acquisitions initiatives are singular and follow a dedication of the museum to the collecting and display of works by diverse artists.

WEDNESDAY:  Devoted to field research, reading and consulting with Institute directors.


Full-day Colloquia on Participants’ Research.

During the last two days of the Institute, participants will share their research and curriculum development projects and discuss how to integrate research and materials from the Summer Institute into their teaching.

FRIDAY EVENING:  Reception for participants and faculty.

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Schedule Summary

NEH Summer Institute Schedule