- Circles and Circuits: An Overdue Reckoning with Chinese Contributions to Modern and Contemporary Caribbean Art
Circles and Circuits, a two-part exhibition accompanied by a significant publication, was a pioneering project that explored the contributions of, and connections among, Chinese Caribbean diaspora artists. Ranging from the early twentieth century to contemporary times, the exhibition was an important contribution to the Getty's Pacific Standard Time LA/LAinitiative. Held at more than seventy cultural institutions across Southern California from September 2017 through January 2018, PST: LA/LAwas a group of thematically linked, far-reaching, and ambitious exhibitions, publications, and programs that explored different aspects of Latin American and Latinx art, from the ancient world to the present day. With topics such as luxury arts in the pre-Columbian Americas, twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian art, alternative spaces in Mexico City, and Latinx artists and groups, the projects supported by the Getty's PST LA/LAinitiative included monographic studies as well as broad surveys that covered numerous countries. However, the initiative only touched lightly on Caribbean art, a region generally subsumed by academe and the museum world under the construct of "Latin American" art. Besides Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art from the Caribbean Archipelago, curated by Tatiana Flores, at [End Page 921]the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Circles and Circuitswas the only other Caribbean-focused project. In the first PSTincarnation in 2012, as well as this 2017 iteration focusing on Latin America/Latinx production, PSTprojects seemed particularly strong when they had a natural connection to the greater Los Angeles area. Thus the inclusion of a project that focused on the Chinese diaspora, in one of the largest Chinese-populated municipalities in the US, was astute. Aside from its local resonance, Circles and Circuitswas a genuine contribution to the growing literature on modern and contemporary Caribbean art, which is strong in its exploration of the African diaspora, but especially weak in its exploration of the Asian roots of the Caribbean. This new look at the Chinese artistic contributions to Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Panama, in particular, adds much to our understanding of the Caribbean.
This undertaking's overarching title, Circles and Circuits, references the intimate relationships between artists, mentors, and family members considered by the project, but it also refers to the journeys, connections, broad-ranging exchanges, and pipelines that formed over time and place, from Asia and Africa to the Americas, to Europe and North America and beyond. The exhibitions and publication home in on the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries while recognizing the larger context and the historical legacies of Chinese Caribbean art. Circles and Circuitsthus poses that, as Caribbean independence spread and artists helped shape "authentic" national visual forms, these new iconographies were shaped by multiethnic, Chinese (and Indian) influences.
Both exhibitions were curated by Alexandra Chang of the Asian/Pacific/ American Institute at New York University and Steven Y. Wong of the Chinese American Museum, with coordinating curator Mar Hollingsworth, visual arts curator and program manager at the California African American Museum. Altogether, the exhibitions included works by thirty-nine artists: M. P. Alladin, Sybil Atteck, Nicole Awai, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Kathryn Chan, Carlisle Chang, Margaret Chen, Willi Chen, Peter Chin, Albert Chong, Manuel Chong Neto, Cisco Merel Choy, Samuel Rumaldo Choy, José Antonio Choy López, Patrick Warsing Chu Foon, Andrea Chung, George Chung, Susan Dayal, Carlos Endara Andrade, Pedro Eng Herrera, Flora Fong, Li...