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Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy

From February 19, 2024 to May 5, 2024

Location: Spotlight Gallery (Floor 1M)

In 1942, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order 9066. The law ordered the forced imprisonment of all Japanese Americans living on the west coast of the United States, which had the second largest population of Japanese people living outside of Japan.

Told from the point of view of Sansei (third generation) Japanese Americans, Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy is an exhibition of eight artists whose work reflects on the effect of Executive Order 9066 as it resonated from generation to generation. While several of the artists in Resilience employ traditional Japanese methods in the construction of their work—Lydia Nakashima Degarrod’s use of boro stitching on her works on paper; Judy Shintani’s kimono cutouts honored in ceramic vessels—others use iconography relating to Japanese culture as a jumping-off point for personal explorations on the subject of the incarceration camps—Reiko Fuji’s photographs-as-kimono; Wendy Maruyama’s columns of replicated camp ID tags. Each in their own way, the artists in this exhibition express moments of deeply felt pain and reluctant acceptance, emotions which were often withheld by their elders.

Reiko Fujii, Detained Alien Enemy Glass Kimono, 2009; glass, fused images, copper wire. 48 x 42 x 6 inches; Courtesy of the artist

Reiko Fujii, Detained Alien Enemy Documentary, 2017; video, duration 22 minutes; Courtesy of the artist.

Tom Nakashima, Tule Lake / Manzanar Jail, 2019; paint and mixed media on canvas, 84 x 72 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Roger Shimomura, The Enemy #2, 2016; acrylic paint on canvas, 24 x 24 x 2 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Judy Shintani, Deconstructed Kimono II, 2011; vintage kimono, bamboo pole, ceramic vessel, stool, 46 x 76 x 10 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Jerry Takigawa, Citizen’s Indefinite Leave, 2017; pigment print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, 22 x 17 inches; Courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Resilience

Gallery view of Resilience

Co-curated by artist Jerry Takigawa and Gail Enns, Resilience was conceived to serve as a catalyst to cultivate social dialogue and change around the issues of racism, hysteria, and economic exploitation still alive in America today. The eight artists featured in Resilience were selected because of their personal connection to the subject matter, their work is well respected within the Japanese American community as well as within the art world, and due to their activism on the subject of incarceration camps.

Takigawa and Enns explain, “The Sansei generation is perhaps the last generation of Japanese American artists that can be directly connected to the WWII American concentration camp experience—making their expression particularly significant in clarity of emotion. These artists lived through the years of “gaman” or silence about the camps. That silence made a deep impression on the artists selected for Resilience.”