Material that has helped inform my understanding of my Asian American identity, in some way or other.
Actors & Comedians
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Collectives & Orgs
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with questions, recommendations for the archive or library, suggestions for collaboration, or other thoughts.
WHAT IS THIS? Chicago-based designer and researcher Ryan Hageman started this collection in 2009 as a way to learn more about Japanese graphic design before he did an MCAD exchange program placing him in Osaka. It’s now a huge archive with images from the 1800s up to the present, featuring budding as well as historic designers.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? This site hosts some of the best and most scrollable eye candy I’ve found as a graphic designer looking for inspiration - and it’s one of my only reliable sources for consistently sophisticated, innovative, super contemporary Asian graphic design. The tag system is comprehensive and allows you to filter search results by a wide array of criteria. The format and origins story of Gurafiku were inspiration for the Hardly Un-American image archive.
WHAT IS THIS? An enormous and informal archive of Japanese kanji fonts, maintained by user-uploaded images.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Entirely composed of Japanese typography examples in endless scroll format, this site is irresistible for graphic designers looking for Asian-based artistic inspiration.
WHAT IS THIS? San Francisco-based Kearny Street Workshop is the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country, founded in 1972 at the apex of Asian American culture and identity formation. Their Reclaiming Our Roots archive features silkscreened posters from the Asian American movement between 1960 to 2014, with about 30 prints available to view online.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? This is a small collection, but the first time I accessed this archive I was struck with the realization that the creation and ongoing relevance of Asian American design is linked to a history of deeply political collective action. That seems obvious, since the same must be said for Asian American identity in general, but this was the first time I had viewed a host of historical Asian American graphic design materials online and it hit me hard.
WHAT IS THIS? OMCA has over over 500 photos, posters, and visual materials with a tag of “Asian American” catalogued in their online art archive.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Because of the Bay Area’s centrality to the origins of the Asian American movement, the Oakland Museum of Art is a primary source of historic Asian American visuals - and their online archive is easy-to-use and informative.
WHAT IS THIS? University of California’s digital collections are vast. When searching the term “Asian American,” 400 images appear (and more than double that number when the filter is broadened to “Asian”).
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Within this archive, the relevance of each piece in the Asian American category seems much more apparent than the OMCA’s collection, which seems to associate the “Asian American” tag with quite a few images that have no apparent affiliation with Asian Americans. This collection really shows the political potency of Asian American graphic design historically, as Reclaiming Our Roots does (the images of which are, incidentally, mostly included in Calisphere).
WHAT IS THIS? AAA is one of the most valuable and comprehensive public collections of primary and secondary source material revolving around contemporary Asian Art. Built through a systemic program of research and information gathering, the collection of hundreds of thousands of digital and physical items began to be digitized in 2010. AAA is based in Hong Kong and therefore represents Chinese contemporary art communities in largest quantities, followed by Japan, Taiwan, and India.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? This collection is totally overwhelming, with over 65,000 records catalogued, but is absolutely fundamental to mention when speaking about Asian art archives. It’s also worth noting that there is a Brooklyn-based component of AAA, known as the Asian Art Archive in America, which provides programming and houses a non-circulating reading room with over a thousand titles.
WHAT IS THIS? SAADA is a Philadelphia-based non-profit that seeks to document, preserve, and share stories of South Asian Americans. There are over 3,000 items - including advertisements, oral histories, newspaper clippings, photos, press releases, correspondences, and more - available to view in SAADA’s online archive.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Though many items included in this collection are not arts-related, I appreciate online archives with complex filtering capabilities, and SAADA allows for browsing by combinations of theme (including non-conventional ones like “Trailblazers” and “Early Women Students”), collection, creator, time period, state, type, and several more categories.
WHAT IS THIS? Many users on Pinterest host great digital collections of Asian and Asian American art. As I unearth ones that inspire me, I’ll list them here.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Unfortunately, since the conventional Western “art world” often excludes historic and contemporary Asian and Asian American artists, I haven’t had much exposure to visual forms that are tied to an Asian heritage. The work of informal archiving around historic and contemporary Asian and Asian American art is both useful and important to me:
- I need to search out Asian and Asian American graphic design in particular as inspiration for my own work, to see what’s being done by people who think and look like me and to help shape and develop my personal design aesthetic.
- I’m always very excited to view any art collections - graphic design-oriented or not - that diversify the traditionally very narrow Western understanding of Asian art (especially as I unpack the ways in which I’ve internalized this understanding). These informal and by no means comprehensive collections feel important to include here as inspiration that the Asian and Asian American experience will start to be represented differently in Western conceptions of art history and the “art world” in the United States.