The Battle Against Asian Xenophobia: Noguchi and Smithsonian
During a time of uncertainty and prevalent xenophobia, Noguchi Art Museum has launched a series of online programs to delve deeply into Isamu Noguchi’s artworks to better understand the new Asian-American identity.
Born in Los Angeles, California, to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of thirteen. Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) is one of the twentieth century’s most critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, ceramics, and architecture that explored a new set of standards for the arts. From the The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, the Noguchi Museum focuses on advancing the appreciation of his art and legacy.
Noguchi believed in “the ‘inter-mixture’ of a new America, and advocated for Japanese Americans during World War II”. The Noguchi Museum sought to exemplify Noguchi’s ideals and have released a community outreach program called “Archives Deep Dive: Noguchi and the New Asian American Identity”. The archives act as a source of inspiration to create memorable discussion and relief during these unusual times. For these specific programs, the museum specifically curated a collection to highlight Noguchi’s role as an equal-rights ally.
“The museum held a virtual lecture on Noguchi’s artistic collaboration with African-American artists and performers in Harlem in the mid-1920s—a connection that he immortalised in his work with pieces such as a 1929 bronze bust of a female drag performer named Gladys Bently. The programme also examines his political activism during the Second World War, during which he voluntarily spent seven months in a Japanese-American relocation camp in Arizona, and his stance on anti-Asian racism and xenophobia as it relates to issues related to Covid-19” - The Art Newspaper
In addition to Noguchi’s program to combat xenophobia, other museums, such as the Smithsonian, have pushed to highlight asian art as opposed to hiding it. The collection consists of 45,000 digital works available to a global audience. When fear and anxiety can give rise to xenophobia, art enthusiasts can scroll through a wide array of Chinese jade and travel to a Tibetan Buddhist shrine virtually for comfort.
Organizations and artists around the globe unite in efforts to relieve groups under suppression and xenophobia. Moreover, as some food for thought to keep in mind during quarantine, “The empathy and respect that follow on the heels of understanding are powerful antidotes” (USA Today).