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80WSE Gallery Presents New Asian American Art History in Landmark Survey Exhibition


Legacies: Asian American Art Movements in New York City (1969-2001) examines artists of the Asian diaspora, including Ai Weiwei and Yoko Ono, who worked in New York City during the last third of the 20th century.

A photo of a decorative shade structure on a patio overlooking a body of water.

"Rumpty-Trumpty Series #5" (1997) by Al-An deSouza is one of more than 100 works in the exhibition.

NYU Steinhardt’s 80WSE Gallery presents Legacies: Asian American Art Movements in New York City (1969-2001), a first-of-its-kind survey of artists of the Asian diaspora who worked in New York City from the 1970s through the 1990s. The exhibition runs from September 11 to December 20, 2024.

More than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and new media from 90 artists will be on view in an ambitious exhibition that offers fresh contexts to explore both the artists and the communities that fostered them. It features a multi-generational roster, including Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, Patty Chang, Shu Lea Cheang, Byron Kim, David Diao, Yoko Ono, Shirin Neshat, Martin Wong, and Isamu Noguchi.

“This is a survey of works by artists who ostensibly fit a socially constructed container – Asian American artists – but who also clearly exceed it in so many ways, and we want to show you how through unexpected encounters with their art and individual perspectives,” says Howie Chen, 80WSE’s curator and one of the exhibition’s organizers. “We have inherited these identity labels, and we want to question them from the inside out. These labels are provisional and institutional, and they are formed by power and everyday practices. They do not make sense all of the time.”

The exhibition came out of years of interdisciplinary research in cultural studies, sociology, and art history by the exhibition’s three organizers: Chen, Jayne Cole Southard, and christina ong.

It examines the role of diasporic artistic communities in New York by drawing on research and oral histories with members of three historically important city organizations that were artistic, social, and political hubs: Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, the Basement Workshop, and the Asian American Arts Centre.

In addition to grappling with what it means to be Asian, Asian American, or other in the US, Legacies examines migration, Western imperialism, gender/sexuality, and racism, Chen notes.

The curators gathered work that offers new insights into historical artists while examining the legacies of others who are under-recognized. For example, Kusama is represented by a striking image of one of her guerilla interventions – a 1969 group skinny dipping in the MoMA garden, which was seen as a gesture of self-insertion into a Western museum institution – rather than her iconic polka dots or pumpkins. The exhibition also revisits the radical queer art of Hanh Thi Pham, whose work in the 1990s confronted Western imperialism, gender, and sexuality, and presaged nonbinary discourse that has become urgent.

Legacies also features newly commissioned pieces, including a large-scale installation by new-media artist Shu Lea Cheang connected to the 30th anniversary of her groundbreaking film, Fresh Kill. Filmmaker Rea Tajiri presents a sculpture that expands on her groundbreaking History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige (1991), a meditation on her family history and Japanese and Japanese American internment during World War II.   

“Coming out of the politically charged 1960s, the exhibition investigates the complexity of life in and around America for these artists,” Chen continues. “I want to look at all these intertwined threads through the decades and focus on new stories created by artists that go beyond national master narratives of belonging and exclusion.”

Legacies: Asian American Art Movements is made possible by Teiger Foundation.

80WSE is at 80 Washington Square Park. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m. ET. Admission is free.

About 80WSE
Founded in 1974, NYU Steinhardt’s 80 Washington Square East Gallery is a not-for-profit gallery presenting contemporary and historical exhibitions. In addition to the main gallery, it exhibits work at the Broadway Windows at E. 10th Street and Broadway. For more information, please visit the 80WSE website.

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Peggy McGlone

(212) 998-6829

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