Arthur Ross Gallery exhibition explores Asian migration to Latin America

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Louisa Shepard (Penn Today) reviews “No Ocean Between Us: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & The Caribbean, 1945-Present” at the Arthur Ross Gallery (University of Pennsylvania, 220 South 34th Street—in the Fisher Fine Arts Library building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). The exhibition is on view until May 23, 2022.

On view now through May 23, ‘No Oceans Between Us’ was organized by the Art Museum of the Americas.

Researching the artists featured in the new exhibition at Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery became an important personal and academic quest for senior Siyuan (Alice) Zhao, from Beijing. During her internship with the Gallery, Zhao sought to understand the cultural identities of Latin American artists who are of Asian descent. 

“I realized that for a lot of these artists the history of their experiences being Asian in Latin America was not often the topic of conversation. I think that’s an aspect of what this exhibition brings, to raise awareness and also to encourage conversations about the legacy of this diasporic history,” says Zhao, who is a double major in art history and political science in the College of Arts and Sciences. “And I think politically, too, what can we get from that knowledge?”

The traveling exhibition, “No Ocean Between Us: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & The Caribbean, 1945-Present,” is on view at the Arthur Ross Gallery through May 23. It gives a view of modern and contemporary art through an exploration of migration flows from Japan, China, India, and Indonesia and the artistic impact in countries including Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.

Adriana Ospina, director of the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) in Washington, D.C., part of the Organization of American States, curated the exhibition. It previously was on view at the AMA, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, and the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas. 

“This university environment is a dream come true because this exhibition is about inclusion; this exhibition is about democracy,” says Ospina. “Latin America is more than we think we are, having all these influxes of people coming from different parts of the world in different circumstances, and the Asian aspect is really important.” 

For example, Ospina says she learned through curating the exhibition, not while growing up in her native Colombia, that Brazil has the second-largest Japanese population in the world, followed by Peru. 

“This is a beautiful art exhibition, but the stories and the history behind the artists and the works are really what matters,” Ospina says. “I think that it’s an eye-opening exhibition.”

The diversity of the 30-plus artworks on view is immediately apparent: paintings, works on paper, photographs, textiles, sculptures, video installations, even a fully set table. 

“There’s a lot of complexity and richness in terms of the cross-cultural interactions,” says Lynn Marsden-Atlass, university curator and director of the Arthur Ross Gallery. “It’s a story about Asian migration into different cultures. It’s the story of how individual artists have melded those experiences. And a lot of this work is about identity.”

The exhibition has been six years in the making, Ospina says, with about a third of the works coming from the museum’s collection and two-thirds on loan, made possible through a partnership with the D.C. nonprofit International Arts and Artists

The original exhibition has 70-plus works, but the Gallery space is not large enough to accommodate them all. Marsden-Atlass worked with her team, including Zhao, to decide what would fit while still keeping the mission of the exhibition intact. 

The path to Penn began four years ago when Ospina stopped by the gallery while she was on campus as a visiting lecturer, invited by Catherine Bartch, associate director of the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies. Marsden-Atlass inquired about the exhibition and requested that it come to Penn. “We kind of talked them into it,” Marsden-Atlass says. [. . .]

The most famous artist represented is Wifredo Lam, a Cuban surrealist whose father was the son of a Chinese immigrant and mother was of African, Spanish, and Taino descent. The exhibition includes three signed and numbered lithographs by Lam, who was influenced by cubists and surrealists during his years in France and Spain, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Henri Matisse.

In the selection process, Zhao voiced support for a video installation by the Chinese-Trinidadian artist and cultural critic Richard Fung, who grew up in Trinidad and now lives in Canada and who identifies as queer. “I read about his work and his experience, and I thought it was important to demonstrate that viewpoint as part of the show,” she says. [. . .]

[“My Jamaican Passport with Inscribed Copper Mat Variant with Beads,” 1990, a silver gelatin print by Afro-Jamaican artist Albert Chong, who is of Chinese descent. Courtesy of the artist..]

For full article, see

“No Ocean Between Us: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & The Caribbean, 1945-Present”
Through May 23, 2022
Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, 220 South 34th Street (in the Fisher Fine Arts Library building), Philadelphia, PA 19104

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