I’m half-Asian but I fully support this exhibit at the Museum of Chinese in America! (See what I did there?)
Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 and Alt.Comics: Asian American Artists Reinvent the Comic
In the Bloomberg Special Exhibitions Gallery and Cheng Gallery
Marvels and Monsters
Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986
The William F. Wu Collection
Asian American Artists Reinvent the Comic Book
September 27, 2012 through February 24, 2013
Left: Yellow Claw #1 (Atlas Comics, 1956)
Right: Excerpt from Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (2005)
MOCA is pleased to present two connected exhibitions that trace the complex relationship between Asian Americans and comics:Marvels and Monsters examines the history of stereotypical and politically charged depictions of Asians and Asian Americans, while Alt.Comics presents contemporary Asian American artists using the medium to craft and present their own narratives.
Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 — The William F. Wu Collection showcases a selection of potent and indelible images of Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream comics from four defining decades of American history. The images are placed in historical context and in a discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators including Ken Chen, Larry Hama, David Henry Hwang, Vijay Prashad, and Gene Luen Yang. The exhibition also contains elements designed to encourage direct engagement with the archetypes, such as life-sized cutouts that allow visitors to put themselves “inside the image” and an installation called “Shades of Yellow” that matches the shades used for Asian skin tones in the comics with their garish PantoneTM color equivalents.
Science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu painstakingly gathered an archive of comics distinguished not only by its size and reach, but by its scope: It is perhaps the world’s only, and certainly the largest, collection of comic books featuring images of Asians and Asian Americans. Marvels and Monstersdraws from this important collection, recently donated with the help of A/P/A Institute to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.
Wu’s archive offers a unique and fascinating look at America’s evolving racial and cultural sensibility — showing how images that began as racist and xenophobic propaganda during times of war and nativist unrest have coalesced into archetypes that still define America’s perception of Asians today.
Alt.Comics extends the conversation of Marvels & Monsters into the present, when sequential art has become a dominant cultural force and communications medium, driven in no small part by Asian American creators. The exhibition will explore how Asian Americans have used the comic book medium to both critique old representations and relate their stories to a wide audience, featuring new and early original artwork from artists Gene Luen Yang, Derek Kirk Kim, Thien Pham, Lark Pien, Jason Shiga, GB Tran, Jerry Ma, Larry Hama, Alex Joon Kim, and Christine Norrie.
The exhibition focuses on alternative and independent comics spaces, showing the work and relationships between different creators from this community. A specific focus will be the San Francisco Bay Area’s and New York City’s Asian American alternative comic scenes, which fostered some of the most talented and high-profile artists working today.
A library of notable works from all represented artists will be available for the visitor to browse. The exhibition will coincide with the launch of Secret Identities Volume 2: Shattered, a follow up to the groundbreaking original compilation using the comic format “to upend, re-envision, reimagine — to shatter — the distorted and negative images that have shadowed Asian Americans since the earliest days of our arrival in this country.” Secret Identities features many of the same artists in the exhibition.
Marvels & Monsters is curated by Jeff Yang and organized by the A/P/A Institute at NYU; it was originally exhibited at NYU Fales Library, and was recently shown at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia. Alt.Comics is curated by Jeff Yang for the Museum of Chinese in America.
Jeff Yang is a cultural studies scholar and the editor of Secret Identities; he writes a column for the Wall Street Journal online called Tao Jones.