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  • Sunil Puljhun | Cultural Encounters

    Sunil Puljhun (Suriname, b. 1978) Sunil Puljhun was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, to a family of Hindustani descent, and studied at Paramaribo’s Nola Hatterman Art Academy from 1995 to 2000. His early work focused primarily on beauty as a subject, but shifted over time to thornier issues of slavery, oppression, war, and hunger. As his work evolved, his canvases grew darker, marshaling a palette of black, grays, and white with red accents, to make his messages more direct. He also experimented with collage, as in Untitled (2011), which addresses issues of race, perhaps drawn from his own experiences as an Indo-Surinamese. ​ Nevertheless, for a short time (2013–2015), Puljhun boldly abandoned his heavier subjects in favor of a colorful evocation of his Hindustani heritage. His celebration of his Indian culture took the form of a series of watercolors depicting traditional Indian dances such as the classical Kathak dance. Following his work on this series, Puljhun returned to his darker subject matter. ​ Puljhun has exhibited in Suriname at the Readytex Art Gallery and at the Paramaribo Span (2010). In 2014, he was selected as artist-in-residence at the Glo’Art institute in Lanaken, Belgium. He has served as head of the Nola Hatterman Art Academy since 2016. back to collection

  • Videos | Cultural Encounters

    videos Yutaka Toyota Manabu Mabe Laura fong prosper

  • Laura Fong Prosper | Cultural Encounters

    Laura Fong Prosper (Panama, b. 1978) Laura Fong Prosper was born in Panama in 1978 to a family of Chinese descent; her paternal grandfather came to the country from Guangdong, China, in 1929 at the age of 12. Fong Prosper trained as a video artist at the International School of Film and TV of San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba (EICTV), and holds an MFA in media art from Bauhaus University Weimar in Germany. She has also taken part in exchange programs with the Kunsthochschule für Medien (KHM) in Cologne, Germany, and with the Tongji University in Shanghai, China. She currently lives in Germany. Fong Prosper has long been intrigued by the history and traditions of her family. As her father explains, “Since very early on she has been interested in her grandfather’s journey from China to Panama.” In this respect, her work can be regarded as autobiographical, dealing with issues of memory and ancestry. Following her grandfather’s death, she relocated to China for more than a year, during which time she sought out her grandfather’s home and relatives in Guangdong; this experience has imbued her work with a new dimension, allowing her to use her camera and creative eye to trace her grandfather’s interoceanic journey. Other hallmarks of Fong Prosper's work include such Chinese family traditions as the rituals of the dinner table. In her work Lazy Susan (2012), she juxtaposes a video of her family in Panama dining around the titular rotating tray with a video of her family in China eating in the exact same manner. Both videos were filmed after her grandfather’s death, and both were executed by placing the camera on top of the “lazy Susan.” Her video installations and documentaries typically incorporate both archival footage and her own photography, blending digital and analog technologies. Her work has been exhibited in China, Panama, Germany, Costa Rica, the United States, and Brazil, and she is a proud participant in the #PANACHINA group exhibition. back to collection

  • Andrea Saito | Cultural Encounters

    Andrea Saito (Peru, b. 1993) Andrea Saito was born in Lima to parents of Japanese descent. In 2016, she completed her education at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú as a visual artist with an emphasis on printmaking. In 2015, she studied Japanese woodblock printmaking at the University of the Arts in London, and had a residency at the London Print Studio. Saito is presently working on her master’s degree in cultural management at the Universidad International de Barcelona in Spain. ​ As a young printmaker of unusual versatility, Saito has experimented with a wide variety of printing methods, such as giclée, monotype, intaglio, digital collage, and Japanese woodcut. Two of her best-known series are Planeta (2017) and the installation Autorretrato (2014); for the latter, Saito expressed through a series of symbolic intaglios what she is and where she came from. Her work has been shown extensively in Peru, and in 2018 she exhibited in Barcelona for the first time. back to collection

  • Margaret Chen | Cultural Encounters

    Margaret Chen (Jamaica, b. 1951) ​ Born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, into an ethnically Chinese family, Chen excelled at her studies at the Jamaica School of Art, then relocated to Canada to pursue her postgraduate education at York University, Ontario. There she began to experiment with the large-format mixed-media sculptures and installations that have become her specialty. Chen works with a wide variety of materials, wood being the most dominant. As was customary among Chinese families in Jamaica, Chen was raised in the family business—in her case, furniture making—which provided her with a specialist’s background in the manipulation of wood for carving and sculpture. In her 1980s work, especially the Steppe series (1982 -1989), Chen reflects on her Chinese ancestors, using the Asian steppes as a symbol of their journey. This mixed-media piece uses paper over wood, incorporating elements of Chinese watercolor and traditional Jamaican motifs. This particular work also uses wooden panels in a manner similar to that of traditional Chinese screens of the fourth and fifth centuries BC—before they became folding screens, Chinese screens were made from a single wooden panel, giving them a heavy, monumental presence that can be seen in Chen’s prodigious modern works. Using the language of modern art, these works by Margaret Chen show the duality of her cultural roots. As she describes it, “the whole process became not only an exploration of the passage of time but of my roots—an imaginary, subterranean journey beneath the steppes of Asia—of life that was no more and of what remains, accumulating, layer upon layer, vague shadows, nebulous shapes.” ​ Chen's work is characterized by her large-format sculptures, installations, and objects that combine wood with mixed materials such as X-ray weaving, bones, canvas, and acrylic. Her production process is ongoing and meditative. Among her exhibitions are About Change (2011), organized by the World Bank and the IDB Gallery in Washington, DC; and her solo show Ovoid (2003), at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica. She currently divides her time between Jamaica and Canada. back to collection

  • Dhiradj Ramsamoedj | Cultural Encounters

    Dhiradj Ramsamoedj (Suriname, b. 1986) Dhiradj Ramsamoedj was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, to a family of Indian descent. In 2004, he graduated from the Nola Hatterman Art Academy in Paramaribo, and went on to study at the Workshop of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands (2007-2008). He is currently studying at the Institute for Educational Training, Paramaribo. ​ Ramsamoedj is in love with the creative process of making art: “When I’m working on my art, I am completely in charge of what I create from beginning till end. I am totally in control, and that gives me a very gratifying sense of power.” His paintings, sculptures, and installations are inspired by everyday people and everyday issues. His works employ a wide variety of media and materials, including textiles—an important part of his identity, as he grew up in a family of tailors—as well as tin cups, wooden sticks, and plastic bottles. ​ In 2010, Ramsamoedj created the wall installation Adjie Gilas in honor of his paternal grandmother. This installation was part of the group exhibition Paramaribo SPAN (2010) and was set up at his grandmother’s house. The main elements of the installation are dozens of aluminum cups identical to those used by his grandmother and her house guests for coffee. Ramsamoedj stamped and careen-printed a portrait of his adjie ("grandmother") on each cup, inscribing the backs with her initial ("R"). Building on the framework of wooden slats that his adjie had long used to hang objects on her walls, Ramsamoedj created a remarkable geometric grid of squares and rectangles as a setting for the cups—a pattern designed, he says, after the floor plan of her house. The installation incorporates images of Lord Ganesha and Lord Krishna that were originally part of the house’s décor, which the artist uses to highlight his grandmother’s heritage and cultural identity. For the exhibition, this elaborate piece has been recreated in the museum. Ramsamoedj has exhibited several times at Readytex Gallery in Paramaribo, and has participated in projects such as Paramaribo SPAN (2010) and Alice Yard (2013). In 2011, he exhibited at the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas as part of the exhibition Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions . back to collection

  • Soeki Irodikromo | Cultural Encounters

    Soeki Irodikromo (Suriname, b. 1945 - D. 2020) ​ Soeki Irodikromo was born to Javanese parents in Suriname, a former Dutch colony that did not gain independence until 1975. Like many artists from the Dutch-speaking nation, Irodikromo journeyed to the Netherlands in the 1960s to undertake formal art training in Rotterdam, where his intense study of the CoBrA movement left a lasting impression on his body of work. In the late 1970s, he received a scholarship to travel to Indonesia, where he learned batik, a traditional Indonesian technique of wax-resist dyeing. Upon his return to Suriname, Irodikromo helped reintroduce this art form to the country. Irodikromo considers Suriname to be a genuine melting pot of cultures, and this hybridity and cultural diversity can be seen in his work. His paintings, batik, ceramics, and drawings reveal a host of influences, from Indonesian mythology and indigenous motifs to the rich colors of the Surinamese jungle and the avant-garde techniques of the CoBrA movement—which combined strong colors with a rebelliousness and spontaneity inspired by the artistic process of small children, who approach their work without a preconceived plan. In his work, Irodikromo marshals elements of Eastern and Western culture that richly evoke the cultural divides and fusions of his native Suriname, where indigenous populations coexist and mix with the descendants of both the former Dutch colonists and the contract workers imported by the Dutch from India, China, and Indonesia. Untitled (1978-1986), an oil painting on canvas, rich in color and texture, is inspired by the figure of Ravana, the multi-headed demon from the Hindu epic Ramayana. (The painting was first associated with Barong, a character from Balinese mythology until sources close to the artist identified it as Ravana.) In this painting, Irodikromo presents only a head, which he describes as “a moment of explosion, horror, and exuberance.” In Javanese culture, different versions of Ravana can be seen in wood-carved decorations, which usually take the form of high-relief carvings of the head of a dragon crowned by a lion’s mane and decorated with flowers and arabesque motifs. Here, Irodikromo has transferred the image of the dragon to the fabric by means of thick brushstrokes, to recreate the texture and patterns of a wood carving. Using saturated, vibrant colors, he projects the richness and fullness of the image of Ravana; in so doing, he creates his own version of the dragon, as well as a highly decorative piece typical of Indonesian art. This work was given to the AMA by the Surinamese government in 1987. We would like to commemorate the life of Soeki Irodikromo, who passed away during the making of this project and whose legacy is a key part of this exhibition. back to collection

  • Hisae Ikenaga | Cultural Encounters

    Hisae Ikenaga (Mexico, b. 1977) Hisea Ikenaga was born in Mexico City to a Japanese father and a Mexican mother. Her father arrived in Mexico in the 1960s from the city of Hita-shi in the Ōita Prefecture, which he left at age 20 to see the world. Her mother, always mindful that her children be aware of their Japanese heritage, introduced Ikenaga and her siblings to the large Japanese colony in Mexico. ​ Ikenaga finished her bachelor’s degree at Mexico’s Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado (also known as La Esmeralda) in 2002, having studied also at the University of Art and Design of Kyoto in Japan in 2000 as part of a student exchange program. She holds a master’s degree in Theory and Practice in Contemporary Art from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (2004). ​ Ikenaga's conceptual artwork uses aspects of performance, installation, sculpture, and photography to explore the tensions between the quotidian meanings of objects in everyday life and the absurdities and ambiguities that these meanings can hold. Her concepts are realized through the artful manipulation of everyday behaviors and objects such as furniture, rulers, golf balls, and phone books. ​ As part of her student exchange program in Japan, Ikenaga developed a project in which she selected everyday objects that were strikingly different from ones she had known in Mexico and reproduced them using different materials, creating new, transformed versions which she displayed in a gallery. This exercise allowed Ikenaga to contrast the primarily industrial nature of Japanese commodities with the more artisanal production of objects in Mexico. Personally, she does not prefer one over the other; as an artist obsessed with objects and their meanings, she has sought, through this contrast, to illustrate the balance she feels between the two cultures, especially regarding their influence on her artistic production. ​ Ikenaga divides her time between Madrid and France while exhibiting her work extensively around the world. She participated in the exhibition Crystal Jungle (2011) at the Museo Universitario de Chopo, which included a diverse group of Japanese artists living in Mexico as well as Mexican artists descended from Japanese families. back to collection

  • Yutaka Toyota | Cultural Encounters

    Yutaka Toyota (Japan, b. 1931) Born in the northern Japanese city of Tendō, Yamagata Prefecture, Yutaka Toyota graduated in 1954 from Tokyo University of Arts, where he studied landscape painting. While in school, Toyota witnessed the devastation of World War II, which had a profound effect on him. After a few years of working at the Institute of Small Industries in Shizuoka, he moved to Brazil in search of new possibilities, which led him to open a furniture atelier in the Liberdade neighborhood of São Paulo. In the first half of the 1960s, he began to paint landscapes once again, but soon moved on to informal abstract painting, much of it expressing cosmological themes. His informalist work integrated the symbol ensō (Japanese for “circle”) as part of its cosmological vision—presaging the prominent role geometry would play in his later work. During this period, his work maintained a singular balance between the Zen Buddhist philosophy of his upbringing and more Western influences, such as the informal abstract art trends of Europe and the United States. During a 1960 trip to Argentina, Toyota began an artistic quest that would dramatically change his work, eventually spurring a voyage to Italy in 1965 to study the work of the Argentine artist Lucio Fontana, whose art incorporates elements of space theory. It was during this time that Toyota began to develop his abstract geometric style, which focuses on a visionary search for a new dimension and cosmic space. Triangle, circle, and square are the building blocks of Toyota’s abstract vision of the cosmic world. Using concave and convex mirrors as symbols of an invisible space, he creates kinetic pieces that invite the viewer to seek a new dimension. To develop his work, Toyota looked closely at the oeuvre of other Latin American artists, such as Julio LePark and Jesús Rafel Soto, who produce striking, innovative works in the realms of kinetic and participatory art. Today, Toyota is world-famous for his monumental public sculptures, such as Cosmic Space (1979) in Toyotomi Park, Hokkaido, Japan. Like many of his Japanese-Brazilian contemporaries, Toyota joined the Japanese-Brazilian artists’ group Seibi-Kai (Grupo de Artistas Plásticos de São Paulo). It was through his involvement with Seibi-Kai that he was invited to exhibit at the Organization of American States in 1972. Toyota of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1972 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas Toyota of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1972 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/2 back to collection