Centripetal/Centrifugal: Calibrating an Asian American Art

Ripin Gallery
February 5–May 26, 2019

The term Asian American originated in the 1960s and 70s, creating a pan-ethnic category that helped to unite Asian people in the United States against racism and social exclusion. Encompassing a diversity of intersecting identities, the term functions—not as a biological designation, but as a racial category constructed through historical and social processes.

With questions of diversity and access came a call for the visual arts to give voice and shape to marginalized experiences. What should Asian American art—or Black art, or women’s art—look like? For an artist to be described as Asian American, must their work, and our understanding of it, be determined by their racial identity?

This exhibition has two sections: “centripetal,” which presents works by Asian American artists living in New York City during the 60s and 70s where they were influenced by Pop art, Abstract Expressionism, and other modernist movements; and “centrifugal,” which comprises later works that offer critiques of the art world and colonialism, as well as promote a more inclusive art history. These binary groupings are not mutually exclusive; rather, the contradictions prompt us to consider how we generate meaning through a work’s original context and contemporary framing, as much as through the work itself.

This exhibition was organized by Elka Lee-Shapiro ’18 with Kevin R.E. Greenwood, the Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art, and Leina Fieleke ’21, curatorial assistant in Asian art.

Walasse Ting (American, born in China, 1929–2010)
Fireworks, 1974
Color lithograph
Gift of the Print Club of Cleveland, 1974.41