Education About Asia: Online Archives

Why Asia? Essays on Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art

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Alice Yang retrieves Asian and Asian American art from peripheral discourse and identity politics and places them into the mainstream. She does this while stressing nationality and ethnicity as the significant factors informing works of art and exhibitions. These two goals appear contradictory, yet Yang convincingly argues that they are not. She queries, “How, then, might one think about contemporary Taiwanese art beyond the restrictive categories of the traditional versus the modern, or of the Chinese versus the Western?”(119–120). She answers by constructing a new critical gauge—a tripartite “cultural axis” encompassing high culture, popular culture, and mass culture—which reveals “an art that is both distinctly Taiwanese and distinctly modern” (120). The third and final section, “Critical Essays,” is her strongest and best, combining the breadth of her knowledge with her profound understanding of the particular.