Five Centuries of Asia x Americas: Continued Connections

Ten transformative artworks from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art show the multiple transnational ties between three continents.

By Dallas Museum of Art

The art and culture of Asia in America has developed ever since the late 17th century with the luxury trade between Asia and colonial North and South America. Transnational histories, art, and personal connections continue to inspire the variety of art practices and perspectives offered by Asian American and Asian Latin American artists today, like Hung Liu, Danh Vo, and Do Ho Suh.

Cabinet (c. 1680–1700)Dallas Museum of Art

Cabinet

The sumptuous materials of this baroque cabinet—thousands of intricately shaped bits of mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell along with ivory—testify to the wealth and political importance of Latin America in the 17th century Iberian global empire that connected Asia with the Americas.

Made in the Portuguese territory of Goa, India, the cabinet crossed the Indian Ocean to Manila, in the Spanish Philippines. Finally, the cabinet crossed the Pacific to arrive in New Spain's capital, Mexico City.

Commissioned by the viceroy of New Spain, the double-headed eagle crest at the top symbolizes Spain's Habsburg dynasty, while the painted coat of arms is of Peru's Tagle family, who inherited the cabinet in the late 18th century.

Screen (c. 1740–1760)Dallas Museum of Art

Screen

This lavish screen is a remarkable example of how artists created luxurious hybrid works from the diverse styles, materials, and imagery that circulated the international trade routes between Asia and the Americas. 

The screen, or biombo, made in colonial Mexico is an adaptation of the Japanese folding screen esteemed by the colonial elite.

The elaborately painted canvas panels feature moralizing scenes drawn from engravings by Flemish artist Otto van Veen, which were popularized in his 1607 book Quinti Horatii Flacci Emblemata.

Palampore (c. 1750)Dallas Museum of Art

Palampore

This floral chintz bedcover, or palampore (Persian and Hindi: palangposh), from India featuring a central palm tree is exceptional both in design and quality. Although the techniques for producing chintz on cotton had been well established in India, it was only in the 1600s that chintz began to be exported and influenced many other textile traditions. 

These bedcovers were first recorded in colonial American inventories in the early 1700s. By the eighteenth century English textile manufacturers adapted their design to machine-printed fabrics and produced a virtual craze for chintz among Anglo-American consumers.

Mouth mask probably depicting the head of a rooster (19th century)Dallas Museum of Art

Mouth mask probably depicting the head of a rooster

This masklike object is among the rarest of sculptures from the Southeast Moluccas. A man held it in his mouth by a tab extending from the back of the head while performing a war dance. The sculptor imaginatively used boar tusks to create the white feathers that rise above the head and encircle the bird’s face. 

Bather with Cigarette (1924) by Yasuo KuniyoshiDallas Museum of Art

Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s experiments with the subject of the modern swimmer demonstrate the artist’s sly sense of humor and were based on his summers at a coastal art colony in Maine. Solid forms, a flattened sense of space, and a dark palette mark this work as  belonging to his early career. He immigrated to the United States in 1906 and eventually moved to New York City. 

Bather with Cigarette was completed in 1924—the same year Congress effectively banned immigration from Asian countries. Two years earlier the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese people did not have the right to naturalization. 

Although he identified as an American and lived in the U.S. for over 40 years—during which he worked for the federal government in WWII and became the first living  artist to be honored with a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1948—immigration laws prevented him from becoming an American citizen before his death in 1953.

Untitled (1976) by Tomie OhtakeDallas Museum of Art

Tomie Ohtake

A leading abstract artist in postwar Brazil, Tomie Ohtake was captivated by the special radiance of the country's tropical landscape since immigrating there from Japan in 1936. A brilliant colorist, this painting's bright gradations of yellow against a hard-edged black arch creates a vibrant, near fluorescent luminosity that is precise and at the same time open to infinite possibilities. 

Integrales II (Edgard Varèse) (1979) by Kazuya SakaiDallas Museum of Art

Kazuya Sakai

Kazuya Sakai was recognized among the leading Latin American abstract artists of his time, and his work often drew upon both contemporary trends and Japanese artistic traditions. 

While living in Mexico, he developed his iconic undulating bands and circles of chromatic variations partially inspired by the bold colors and striking patterns of 17th century Japanese Rinpa master Ogata Kōrin. 

Integrales II (Edgard Varèse) was created shortly after Sakai moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s, when Sakai introduces into his works a new pulsating dynamism still driven by color—forest green, fiery red, and opulent purple—as they swirl and collide into each other.

Goddess of Love, Goddess of Liberty (1989) by Hung LiuDallas Museum of Art

Hung Liu

One of the first contemporary artists from China to establish a career in the U.S., Hung Liu is renowned for her painting’s retrieval of historically anonymous figures—particularly women, workers, and refugees.

In this installation, a bowl is offered to each painting of a true “goddess” in China in remembrance of the historic treatment of women—as an erotic symbol on the left and as a subservient character crippled with bound feet on the right. 

Created in 1989 shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, the broom symbolizes the brooms used to sweep away bloodstains off the square as well as further the subordinate status of women, while the blank blackboard above it references the continued erasure of women.

Lot 20. Two Kennedy Administration Cabinet Room Chairs (2013) by Danh VoDallas Museum of Art

Danh Vo

Danh Vo’s artistic practice is characterized by a continued interest in the public forces and private desires that define personal experience, especially as related to colonialism, Cold War expansion, and the Vietnam War. He and his own family migrated to Denmark in 1979 as refugees of the Vietnam War.

In 2012 Vo acquired two Chippendale-style cabinet room chairs in an auction of the personal effects of former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, widely considered to be the chief architect of the Vietnam War. Jacqueline Kennedy had gifted the chairs to McNamara in appreciation of his contributions to her husband’s administration. 

Vo disassembled the chairs to nine component parts and dispersed them across various collections around the world. The chairs’ earlier meaning of personal loss and memory between McNamara and John F. Kennedy is stripped and scattered to evoke the wider losses made from the decisions of their former occupants. 

Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea (2016) by Do Ho SuhDallas Museum of Art

Do Ho Suh

Ever since he immigrated to the U.S. from Korea in the early 1990s, artist Do Ho Suh has been considering in his works the shifting notions of site and home. Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea reproduces a transitional space in his parents’ home in Seoul, where he grew up. 

A traditional hanok (Korean house), the scaled fabric architecture reflects the porous quality of the Korean architecture while also communicating the intangible quality of the memory of a place. 

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