‘War Baby’ is something to see, if you can let go

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-10 16:17Z by Steven

‘War Baby’ is something to see, if you can let go

The Chicago Tribune
2013-05-08

Lori Waxman, Instructor of Art History, Theory and Criticism
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

It was the Hello Kitty tepee that did it for me.

Some exhibitions can be so challenging that it takes a particularly unexpected artwork for the viewer to finally let go and get into the swing of things. “War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art,” currently up at the DePaul Art Museum and featuring work by a dozen-and-a-half artists, is one such show. A riotously colored digital print by Debra Yepa-Pappan featuring a purple-haired Native American woman, lifted from an iconic Edward S. Curtis photograph and set against a background of space-age tepees, one of them marked with the equally iconic and silent face of everybody’s favorite Japanese cat, is one such artwork.

Hilarious and weird and crazily of its time β€” i.e., now β€” Yepa-Pappan’s collage lifted my thoughts up and over the various stumbling blocks that “War Baby/Love Child” presents. Curated by Laura Kina, an artist and DePaul professor, and Wei Ming Dariotis, a professor of Asian-American Studies at San Francisco State University, the cogitative but overdetermined exhibition sets up a Catch-22. It wants to recognize the complex realities of a fast-growing segment of the American population β€” the 2.6 million who identify as Asian plus one or more other races β€” and to prove how far beyond stereotype those people go. And yet, two gargantuan cliches give their name to the exhibition itself.

The term “war babies” generally refers to the children of Asian or Pacific Islander women and the U.S. soldiers who were stationed in their home countries during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. “Love children” were born of the free love of a post-civil rights and flower-child era, and, as listed in the extensive exhibition catalog, their makeup includes Eurasians and Hapas (Mixed White Asians), Mixed Bloods (Mixed Asian Native Americans), Blasians (Mixed Black Asians) and Mestizaje (Mixed Latino Asians).

“War Baby/Love Child” thus finds itself in the counterintuitive position of wanting to replace its own title with a dozen less-loaded ones. Wall labels are one tool, and the ones here list an astonishing array of mixed identities as well as direct quotes from most of the artists, many of whom speak about personal experiences growing up amid racial presumption…

Read the entire article here.

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