Banners of Asian American artists on display at the Noguchi Museum

In response to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, the Noguchi museum in Long Island City launched its first open call for artist banners and honored the finalists at an opening reception, where the banner made its debut.

The event held in November brought together artists and their guests, museum partner organizations, elected officials and staff, including Museum Director Brett Littman, who opened the reception.

In an effort to raise awareness and amplify local AAPI voices, emerging AAPI artists based in Queens were invited to submit designs for the museum’s outdoor banner space to advocate for the fight against racism, where one artist would earn an honorarium of $ 1,000 and two finalists would each receive $ 500.

The initiative was created to show solidarity with the Japanese heritage of museum founder Isamu Noguchi and to act against the Asian hatred that has circulated information since the start of the pandemic.

“Amid the escalation of violence against the AAPI community and across the United States, staff felt absolutely compelled to prove that we are allies of these marginalized communities,” Littman said in his speech to ‘opening.

According to the media coordinator of the Noguchi museum, Justin Baez, the artist applications were assessed by a jury made up of the museum’s organizing committee, an interdepartmental and intergenerational group of volunteers, including himself, and representatives. two local partner organizations, Queen’s Arts Council and Asian-American Arts Alliance.

After receiving and narrowing down more than 20 entries, the museum selected Chemin Hsiao as the first winner and Woomin Kim and Mo Kong as the finalists.

(From left to right) Mo Kong, Woomin Kim and Chemin Hsiao won the Noguchi Museum’s call for nominations. (Photo credit: Katherine Abbott)
(Left to right) Brett Littman, Mo Kong, Woomin Kim and Chemin Hsiao. (Photo credit: Katherine Abbott)

Featured through six outdoor banners, Hsiao’s work, titled “Dandelions Know” (2021), was chosen for its powerful message of anti-racism, solidarity and hope in response to the growing wave of violence and fear facing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States.

“What attracted us to Hsiao’s work is his ability to capture a lot of personal emotions towards the subject, doing it in a way that is aesthetically translatable by the banners,” Baez said. “We also appreciated the way he approached not only anti-racism, but the current political landscape in a narrative way.”

Hsiao, an Elmhurst-based Taiwanese visual artist, was initially reluctant to submit a banner proposal, struggling to figure out how to approach the heavy topic.

What ultimately drove him to participate was how much he admired Noguchi’s experience as Nisei, a second-generation Japanese American, especially during WWII.

In his essay, “I Become a Nisei”, Noguchi wrote that the Nisei are “an intermediate people with no common ground.” This particular quote, Hsiao said, is the essence of the central dandelion.

“Overall, the banner should be about Asian hate crimes and violence, but this specific piece is about Mr. Noguchi himself and how he feels and how I relate to the fact that he’s from Taiwan.” , Hsiao said. “I just took that perspective and thought, as a Taiwanese and a member of the AAPI community living in New York City, how do I feel? “

When you arrive at the entrance to the museum, the banners are presented in sequential order: 1) “Surrounded”, 2) “Fear”, 3) “Cut the loop”, 4) “Dandelions know (as they float too ) ”, 5)“ Heal and forgive (if possible) ”, 6)“ We are only humans. Keep communicating.

“Each of them serves a different purpose, but if I had to choose [my favorite], it’s the happy accident at the center of the series, the dandelion, ”Hsiao said. “When I planned the six drafts, this one was the hardest to come out because it’s not really related to Asian hate crimes, but ultimately it’s the one that people identify with the most. “

“Dandelions Know” banner (Photo credit: Katherine Abbott)

Hsiao’s hope is that the public aspect of the artwork will pique the interest of all passers-by and make them stop, look, and be curious.

Inside the museum, there is a description of the banner, as well as descriptions and visuals of the proposed banners by the two finalists.

Kong, a Chinese multidisciplinary artist and researcher residing in Sunnyside, created his works in the midst of the pandemic, preserving objects, such as food and trinkets from childhood, in the tradition of classical art to the inside their refrigerator.

Whether the pictures act as some sort of puzzle or a familiar ensemble, Kong hopes people can always relate to the pictures.

“What I’m trying to do is use [this project] like a mirror to reflect and verify our personal history, where we came from and why certain things are important to us, ”Kong said. “I also want to show, especially to immigrant children and children, the possibilities of creating works of art. You don’t have to have high access to start making art, but it can be anything around you.

The next finalist, Kim, a South Korean artist based in Ridgewood, wanted to change the inaccurate and xenophobic narrative surrounding shijang, or street markets.

“I just wanted to create the shijang narrative in a way that I know is more accurate to me, which is very colorful and festive and full of energy and vibrancy,” Kim said. “This is an organic conservation of material that might not make sense in Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.”

The museum was drawn to how Kim’s aesthetic combined with the theme, especially with his use of textiles and materiality. “The way she created the banners kind of speaks to and elevates the day to day nature of Asian American life,” Baez said.

Mo Kong showing their banner design to guests at the reception. (Photo credit: Katherine Abbott)

Through her panels, Kim hopes she can provide visitors from Asian communities with moments of familiarity and recall their own memories in a festive way, as well as being a voice for Asians’ daily experiences for those unfamiliar with them.

“We are really proud of our finalists and the artists who submitted,” Baez said. “We hope that this will serve as a precedent and that we can continue this series in the following years, adopting different tones and requirements, while maintaining this fundamental vision and this desire to amplify the voice of local artists.”

The banners are displayed outside the entrance to the museum.

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