One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now is 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.
Unlike an earlier generation of Asian American artists whose work made very bold and deliberate statements of identity, 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.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Pacific Film Archive will present One Way or "The Other", a film series that looks at several generations of Asian American moving-image artists, concentrating on earlier moments in their creative careers. This nine-part series affords an overview of a quest for cultural identity that has evolved throughout recent decades. Artists such as Jon Moritsugu, Shu Lea Cheang, Gregg Araki, and Gina Lim, display in all their energetic departures a restless instinct for the brash, the unconventional, and the fearless.
Patty Chang, a performance artist included in the gallery exhibition, will participate in a short residency, bringing her forceful and telling work to several BAM/PFA events.