There has been a pronounced increase in racism and violence toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. While details of the recent shootings in Atlanta are still emerging, our thoughts are with the victims and their families. Crystal Bridges and the Momentary continue to denounce hate and stand firm in our commitment to being an anti-racist institution.
Unfortunately, the oppression of AAPI communities is nothing new. This was common throughout the twentieth century, particularly leading up to and during World War II. Several artists with work at Crystal Bridges were detained or deemed enemies of the state because of their ethnicity, including:
At the center of the circular shape above, a knot of wrapped wires extends outward, eventually unraveling into spikey forms that look similar to tree branches. As a child during World War II, Ruth Asawa was interned at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Desha County, Arkansas, along with many other Japanese Americans. Much of her artwork was influenced by this imprisonment and marginalization. Untitled, with its organic appearance, nods to the fencing that surrounded the internment camp giving the lovely object a subtlety sinister edge.
Although the work of George Nakashima isn’t in Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection, his work is essential to the story of craft and American art experience more broadly. Crafting America includes the work of Nakashima—Lounge with Free-form Arm Rocking Chair (1973). In addition, his teacher Gentaro Kennth Hikogawa has artwork in the exhibition adjacent to Nakashima’s to demonstrate that the imparting of skills from one generation to another is the lifeblood of craft and to show the sources for such great makers. Nakashima was incarcerated during World War II like many other Japanese Americans, and went on to become a prolific and widely recognized furniture maker. He had already trained as an architect but while in the illegal detention center encountered Gentaro Kenneth Hikogawa, who taught him traditional Japanese carpentry skills.
Hikogawa’s Untitled (Chest of Drawers) ca. 1942-1945 is also featured in Crafting America. He made this chest of drawers while at Minidoka War Relocation Camp in Idaho during World War II. Hikogawa had trained extensively in carpentry in Japan, learning traditional joinery techniques before immigrating to the United States in 1924. During the forced wartime incarceration, he addressed the need for furniture and applied his woodworking mastery in harsh conditions with limited resources. For this chest, he used scrap from packing crates and scavenged brushwood.
As an arts and cultural institution, we provide space for civil discourse, offer historical perspectives, lift up marginalized voices, and carry forth the work of promoting equality. By learning history (and current events) through art, we can also make connections between the past and present and reflect upon the ways that art illuminates our path to ending racism and striving for justice.
Here are programs, organizations, and educational resources to help in your journey:
Organizations to Support