We Were Always Here: Japanese-American Post-War Pioneers of Art

April 4 – July 15, 2019
San Francisco, CA


We Were Always Here: Japanese-American Post-War Pioneers of Art provides an insightful chapter within the many cross-cultural narratives that developed and flourished in American art after WW II.

While several artists featured in the exhibition were born in the United States, others chose the U.S. as their home. This confluence of identities taking place during a both highly expressive and repressive period in America resulted in particularly potent work, which expanded the vocabulary of Abstract Expressionist painting while introducing new forms of sculpture and conceptual art.

Exhibition highlights include Seashore of Rotterdam, 1988, a signature dot painting by Yayoi Kusama; Untitled, c. 1950s, an intricate wire sculpture harnessing the power of the line while simultaneously expressing its transparency by Ruth Asawa; Miracle of the Door, 1964, a conceptual diagrammatic canvas by architect and artist Arakawa; and 31 Flavors invading Japan, 1982, a Ukiyo-e inspired woodcut with hand watercolor on paper infused with humorous references to American pop culture by Masami Teraoka.

The exhibition also includes works by Nakatomi Hajime, Matsumi Kanemitsu, Tadasky (Tadasuke) Kuwayama, Ueno Masao, George Miyasaki, Sadamasa Motonaga, Kikuo Saito, Kumi Sugai, Honda Syoryu, and Nakamura Tomonori.

While some Japanese and Japanese-American artists advanced divergently from the same influences, others converged onto similar paths. By putting these artists in dialogue with each other, the exhibition seeks to explore a richer history of post-war art through new contexts.