"A Long and Tumultuous Relationship" East-West Interchanges in American Art, SAAM Symposium Playlist

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  • Watch all sixteen videos from our symposium by clicking on the menu icon in the upper left corner of the video.

    This two-day symposium explores the complicated interactions between American and Asian artists and visual traditions from the eighteenth century to the present. The history of American art has long been discussed primarily in terms of European training and influence. When scholars have looked eastward, they often have considered the Asian influence on art of the United States as a unidirectional and limited development, suggesting that Asian culture was monolithic and unchanging while characterizing American artists as dynamic and original in their ability to absorb and meld the best of diverse global outlooks. This multidisciplinary conference focuses instead on what scholar Bert Winther-Tamaki has called in his book Art in the Encounter of Nations the "contentious interdependency" born out of a "long and tumultuous relationship" between East and West.

    Papers by both senior and emerging scholars and curators explore cultural interactions in a variety of “contact zones” ranging from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States to venues of artistic production in India, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Speakers consider the circulation of artists, objects, and ideas over time and the impact of these crossings on art and culture at large; reflect on the changing face of Orientalism; look at international conversations about race and identity; and explore developments in studio craft and the import market.

    “A Long and Tumultous Relationship”: East-West Interchanges in American Art was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. It was supported by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, which is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of American art for national and international audiences.