AAPI Artists and Resources

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islanders and their contributions to American art and culture, the AD&A Museum presents selected works from the permanent collection by AAPI artists. We also feature the work of emerging artists, including recent UCSB graduates. 

In collaboration with the Museum's Internship Program, a brief biography, with selections researched and written by the 2020-21 undergraduate interns, accompanies each work of art. 

As a collective space for modern and contemporary art and culture, AAPI Artists and Resources also feature recommended books and artist archives from the UCSB Library, and resources and AAPI stories from the UCSB Asian Resource Center.

We will continue to update this space with more artists, resources, and events supporting the AAPI community.


John Way

John Way, February No. 5, 2001  

John Way, a Chinese-American artist born in Shanghai in 1921, was well known for his distinctive take on abstraction. Way’s first inspiration came from his mentor, famous calligrapher Li Zhongqian, with whom Way began studying at the age of ten. His fascination with Chinese calligraphy remained present in his art throughout his life. This passion merged with the influence of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the mid-twentieth century, which greatly affected Way’s artistic style as an up-and-coming artist. As a result, Way’s paintings display both the characteristic abstract brush strokes of this movement, interlaced with his unique take on ancient calligraphy practices. Shown here, ‘February No. 5’ presents Way’s style perfectly, filled with chaotic abstraction and painted over with calligraphic strokes. Like traditional Chinese calligraphy, the free-flowing style of Way’s practice was enjoyed by his audiences, culminating in an impressive career in the arts and several calligraphy book publications. (Olivia Thompson)

Image: John Way (1921–2012), February No. 5, 2001. Oil on paper. Gift of Qi Pan. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara. 

Parker Ito

Parker Ito, Inkjet Painting #49, 2013

Contemporary artist Parker Ito specializes in a wide range of mediums. A fourth generation Japanese-American artist born in 1986, Ito involved himself in a plethora of artistic expression while growing up in Long Beach, California. He began acting and singing at a young age, even appearing on television as a child, before aspiring to become a professional skateboarder. Eventually, Ito found that art was his true calling. He painted oil derricks in Los Angeles, just north of his hometown, and began to dabble in painting, sculpture, and technology-based media. Working primarily with galleries in Los Angeles and China, Ito’s work has been showcased around the globe. His inkjet piece printed on silk, shown here, features a color gradient of dots transcending from deep pinks to dark greens. Ito continues to create his art as commentary on absorption, particularly about how humans interact with the onslaught of media in the modern world. (Olivia Thompson)

Image: Parker Ito (b. 1986), Inkjet Painting #49, 2013. Inkjet print on silk. Courtesy of Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Beverly Hills. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara. 

Chiura Obata

Chiura Obata, Ojai, 1946

Ojai is a small southern Californian town in Ventura, north of Los Angeles, and known for its beautiful landscapes that draw visitors every year. Pictured in Sumi (Japanese term for black ink), a medium made from the soot of oil lamps, pinewood, animal glue and perfume, the iconic mountains of Ojai are brushed effortlessly in smooth lines onto paper.

Chirua Obata, who drew this landscape and others like it in 1946, immigrated to the United States in 1903 from Okayama, Japan. His life’s work and story includes experiencing the Japanese Internment during World War II. During this time, he founded and directed art schools within the camps. He became a prominent artist in Northern California, and an art professor at UC Berkeley. His works convey a love for the land and established him in the canon of great American landscape artists. (Skylar Lines)

Chiura Obata (1885–1975), Ojai, 1946. Sumi-ink on paper. Gift of the Chiura Obata Family Estate. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara.

Dug Uyesaka

Dug Uyesaka, Collage with figures, animals, and Japanese calligraphy, 2005
The mixed-media contemporary work of art combines paper, painting, Japanese calligraphy and a label from a food product, all juxtaposed on the surface. Created by Dug Uyesaka, the collage of disparate images and references, held together with white tape, gives the sense of a piecing together of a childhood memory. Maybe the collage is striving to give an insight into the artist’s early life from a Japanese American family. That is only one reading, however, and the open-endedness of the piece invites interpretation and questions from viewers. A working Santa Barbara artist, Dug Uyesaka experienced the Japanese Internment of World War II as part of a Japanese-American family. Known for his assemblage work, he has exhibited in several galleries and museums in Santa Barbara. (Skylar Lines)

Dug Uyesaka (b. 1953), Collage with figures, animals and Japanese calligraphy, 2005. Gift of Estate of Frances Garvin and Keith Julius Puccinelli. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara.

Hung Liu

Hung Liu, Border Portrait: Yi Woman, 2000

Hung Liu is a Chinese artist born in Changchun, under the communist regime of Mao Zedong. She has lived through much chaos, with revolution, exile, and displacement. As a result, her documentary images, based on historical photographs, focus on elevating the stories of people who have historically been unheard: ranging from prostitutes and refugees to soldiers and prisoners. Liu’s images speak powerfully to the complex narratives of these struggling individuals. Her portraits display often forgotten individuals in a dignified manner as a way to lend power to their stories.

Liu painted this particular portrait with the same artistic philosophy. This work depicts a Yi woman. It is strongly implied that she is travelling in hopes of a better life elsewhere. In spite of her struggles as a Chinese ethnic minority, she stands tall and bears a stoic, determined expression. Like many of Liu’s paintings, the drips on the canvas make the work appear somewhat dissolved, which alludes to the way in which memory slowly deteriorates as time goes on. At the same time, however, by turning photographs into large-scale paintings, Liu effectively revitalizes the past. (Daniel Ong)

Hung Liu (b. 1948), Border Portrait: Yi Woman, 2000. Oil on canvas. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara.  

Yoon Lee

Yoon Lee, Swipe, 2008

Yoon Lee is a Korean painter born in Busan, Korea. She is best known for her large-scale acrylic paintings, which tend to be both abstract and dynamic. Her unique painting style often includes large sweeping motions throughout the canvas, making her work appear spontaneous. However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that this is not the case. She develops layers in her compositions by using a computer to filter through images of popular media. She then manipulates these forms to create a sense of motion in her paintings. Her work is actually multiple coatings of carefully applied paint. Thus, her meticulous process contrasts greatly with the energetic appearance of her paintings: a dichotomy between order and chaos. 

Swipe is a perfect example of Lee’s artistic style. It shows large and sweeping black brushstrokes scattered amongst swipes of pinks, yellows, and reds. While this work was completed slowly and carefully, the title of the piece combined with its gestural appearance conveys a sense of chaos and speed. (Daniel Ong)

Yoon Lee, Swipe, 2008. Acrylic on Sintra (PVC panel). Art, Design & Architecture Museum; UC Santa Barbara.  

Alina Kawai

Alina Kawai, ランの花がする会話 A Conversation Between Orchids, 2021
Born in Hyōgo, Japan, Alina Kawai recently completed her MFA at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her art is informed by her experiences moving to new and unfamiliar places, while endeavoring to remain close to her culture and upbringing. After moving to Hawai’i from Japan as a child, Kawai attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Following the completion of her BFA in 2016, Kawai remained in Hawai’i to continue producing art and working in contemporary art galleries before coming to California. While working towards her MFA, she has focused her art on her connections to Japanese culture, creating pieces that serve as both an informative experience for the viewer and an introspective process for the artist. Often using bold colors and shapes, Kawai’s paintings have been exhibited in a number of galleries and can be found in the permanent collection of the Hawai’i State Art Museum. Visit the 2021 MFA Exhibition to see more of Kawai's work. (Olivia Thompson)
Alina Kawai, ランの花がする会話 A Conversation Between Orchids, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Kio Griffith

Kio Griffith, Algorithm Counter, 2019
Kio Griffith (UCSB MFA 2020) was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. As an interdisciplinary artist, Griffith plays with a variety of mediums to communicate thoughts on modern-day issues including global warming, immigration, and hyphenate identities. 
This piece, Algorithm Counter, is defined by the artist as a “chance operation machine” which formulates randomized arrangements of words. The rows of Japanese and English letters move in different directions and pause randomly–– creating a series of letters that may or may not have any meaning. The work is “a language calculator, a stream of consciousness timer, and an interminable messaging billboard,” as Griffith has stated. (Summer Haddaway)
Kio Griffith, Algorithm Counter, 2019. Processing generated video. Courtesy of the artist.

Gin D. Wong

Gin D. Wong, 76 Union Gas Station in Beverly Hills, 1965

The iconic, mid-century modern, futuristic looking ship that is the Union 76 Gas Station in Beverly Hills was created by WWII veteran and architect Gin Dan Wong (1922–2017). Born in Guangzhou, China, Wong grew up in the U.S. He attended USC’s School of Architecture, established himself with the architectural firm Pereira & Luckman, and co-founded William L. Pereira and Associates. He opened his own firm Gin Wong Associates in 1974.
Wong’s design began as a project for the Los Angeles International Airport. Its upward sloping canopy elevates the everyday routine of pumping gas. Inspired by car culture, jets, the Space Age, the Atomic Age, the modern style known as Googie architecture describes the post-WWII euphoria of American futurism.
For more information about Gin Wong's designs, visit the Victor Cusack archive in the Architecture and Design Collection.
Gin D. Wong, Union 76 Gas Station in Beverly Hills, at the corner of Crescent Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard. Designed by Wong in 1960; station completed in 1965. Photo via waterpower.org.

Ben Sakoguchi

Ben Sakoguchi, General DeWitt, ca. 1978. Gift of Don Trevey to the Ken Trevey Collection of American Realist Prints. Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara
Ben Sakoguchi is a prolific artist born in 1938 in San Bernardino, California, and like many other Japanese Americans, was incarcerated in an Arizona internment camp during World War II. After his family’s release, they ran a small grocery store in San Bernadino. Sakoguchi received his MFA from UCLA in 1964, and became a professor of art at the Pasadena City College until his retirement in 1997. Throughout his life, Sakoguchi has been a prolific artist, producing many satirical works based on classic labels from orange crates, adapted with pointed social commentary. “When I paint with these labels,” he says, “It’s disarming, no matter the subject. People don’t want to be lectured about politics or race, so I use images and colors that soften the blow” (Sports Illustrated, 2006). 
The AD&A Museum has several works by Sakoguchi in its collection, including General DeWitt (ca. 1978), which spotlights the role that General John L. DeWitt played in advocating for and organizing the Japanese American internment camps. Sakoguchi continues to paint in this ‘orange crate style,’ addressing issues such as the Black Lives Matter Movement and the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Image: Ben Sakoguchi, General DeWitt, ca. 1978. Oil on canvas. Gift of Don Trevey to the Ken Trevey Collection of American Realist Prints. Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. 

UCSB Library Resources

Books on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

From: https://guides.library.ucsb.edu/asianamerican/countering

AAPI Books_UCSBLibrary

America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan; Marilyn C. Alquizola (Introduction by); Lane Ryo Hirabayashi (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780295993539
Publication Date: 2014-02-24
At America's Gates by Erika Lee
ISBN: 0807827754
Publication Date: 2003-05-19
Bitter Fruit by Claire Jean Kim
ISBN: 0300074069
Publication Date: 2000-09-10
Flashpoints for Asian American Studies
ISBN: 9780823278633
Immigrant Acts by Lisa Lowe
ISBN: 082231858X
Publication Date: 1996-10-21
The Karma of Brown Folk by Vijay Prashad
ISBN: 0816634386
Publication Date: 2000-03-15
Los Angeles - Struggles Toward Multiethnic Community by Edward T. Chang (Editor); Russell Charles Leong (Editor)
ISBN: 0295973757
Publication Date: 1994-01-01
The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee
ISBN: 9781476739403
Publication Date: 2015-09-01
Model-Minority Imperialism by Victor Bascara
ISBN: 0816645116
Publication Date: 2006-09-22
Strangers from a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki
ISBN: 0316831301
Publication Date: 1998-09-23
Transforming the Ivory Tower by Brett C. Stockdill (Editor); Mary Yu Danico (Editor)
ISBN: 9780824835262
Publication Date: 2012-03-15
We Gon' Be Alright by Jeff Chang
ISBN: 9780312429485
Publication Date: 2016-09-13
Yellow Peril! by John Kuo Wei Tchen; Dylan Yeats
ISBN: 9781781681237
Publication Date: 2014-02-11

Special Collections, Asian American and Pacific Islander Archives

From: https://www.library.ucsb.edu/special-collections/cema/asian-pacific-american-collections

Selected archives of AAPI Artists:

Dong, Jim - visual artist, photographer - https://www.library.ucsb.edu/jim-dong-papers
Gee, Zand - printmaker, graphic designer, photographer - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8mg7qvg/
Hsiang, Bob - photographer - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8gq738k/
Hom, Nancy - silkscreen artist, writer, graphic designer, curator, children’s book illustrator - https://www.library.ucsb.edu/special-collections/cema/NancyHom
Ito, Michio - choreographer, dancer - https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c82809hb/
Kearney Street Workshop - oldest multidisciplinary Asian American arts organization in the United States - https://www.library.ucsb.edu/special-collections/cema/kearny
Lim, Genny - playwright, poet, performance artist - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8zg6ss4/
Seigel, Shizue - writer, visual artist - https://www.library.ucsb.edu/special-collections/cema/seigel
Tagatac, Sam - filmmaker - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c86m3c7d/
Tom, Cynthia - visual artist, curator, community artist activist - https://www.library.ucsb.edu/cynthia-tom-papers
Tanaka, Gayle - visual artist, photographer - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c80867h5/
Wong, Flo - installation artist - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt7z09s5t2/
Wong, Leland - illustrator, photographer, screen printer - http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c83t9npz/

Asian Resource Center

Asian Resource Center logo

Located on the ground floor of the Student Resource Building, the Asian Resource Center (ARC) first began at UCSB in 1997. A meeting space and activity center, the ARC also houses a library of Asian Pacific American books, videos, photos, student group information, and events. Here for all students who attend UCSB, the ARC is a place to kick back, study, and relax with friends.

In May, the ARC celebrated APIDA storytellers through social media. Developed by ARC's Katherine Vu, the project shares individual experiences of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American creators. We share director Lulu Wang's story, courtesy of the ARC. For more, follow the ARC on Instagram @ucsb_arc.