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  • Flora Fong | Cultural Encounters

    Flora Fong (Cuba, b. 1949) Flora Fong was born to a Cantonese father in Camagüey, Cuba, and completed her artistic training in 1970, graduating from the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. Her early work explores surrealist and expressionist trends, linking these with her own Cuban experience. In the 1980s, following her intense study of Chinese art and calligraphy—first in Havana and then, in 1989, in China—her work evolved in a striking new direction. In an interview, she recalls her overwhelming curiosity to explore her Chinese heritage, a process she undertook independently and which became a point of departure for her mature work. Fong questions the fact that she was taught only Western art in art school, and reflects on her late but revelatory study of Chinese art: “In books and reproductions, I was struck by the skill reflected in the treatment of landscapes: the perception, the synthesis, the profound content conveyed by spatial relationships; the way they could paint flowers with just one brushstroke…” ​ Fong's study of Chinese calligraphy allowed her to use Chinese characters to depict ideas as well as visual motifs. For instance, she uses the logogram for the forest to represent the Cuban tropical forest in her work, and extensively (and evocatively) uses the Chinese characters for person, wind, sun, rain, cloud, mouth, garden, and mountain. Fong's works combine a diversity of subjects, such as the legacy of Chinese immigrants on the island (specifically, the experiences of her father); the ship as a symbol of the arduous journey by which Chinese immigrants made their way into the Americas; and more contemporary themes, such as Chinese cuisine. She combines these subjects with symbols and themes that are typical of the island, such as the Palma real (palm tree); the rooster, which was also a favorite motif of the well-known Cuban painter Mariano Rodriguez; Cuban coffee-makers; and—most importantly—the Caribbean cyclone, which is omnipresent in Fong’s work, as she describes herself as a cyclone in motion. back to collection

  • 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 (2011), which addresses issues of race, perhaps drawn from his own experiences as an Indo-Surinamese. Untitled ​ 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

  • 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 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.” Steppe ​ 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 (2011), organized by the World Bank and the IDB Gallery in Washington, DC; and her solo show (2003), at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica. She currently divides her time between Jamaica and Canada. About Change Ovoid 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 in honor of his paternal grandmother. This installation was part of the group exhibition (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. Adjie Gilas Paramaribo SPAN 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 (2010) and (2013). In 2011, he exhibited at the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas as part of the exhibition . Paramaribo SPAN Alice Yard 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. (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. Untitled 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

  • Albert Chong | Cultural Encounters

    Albert Chong (Jamaica, b. 1958) "After locking up shop with gun in hand during the riots against the Chinese shopkeepers, my father got us all safe uptown. When we returned days later, all the shops on the street had been burned or looted but 6 Rose Lane was untouched and we were told by locals that our shop had been spared because we were good 'Chiney' people and because my father had done so much for the community…" — Albert Chong Albert Chong was born in 1958 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a family of Chinese-Jamaican merchants. At age 19, he migrated to New York City, where in 1981 he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. In 1991, he received his MFA from the University of California in San Diego; that same year, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where we currently lives and works. Chong’s work is profoundly influenced by issues of race and identity, reflecting his own mixed heritage as a product of the Chinese diaspora in Jamaica as well as his intercultural African and Chinese family dynamics. His artistic production ranges from photography to installation, though he is best known for his photographic work. Early works, such as (1990) and (1986), are photographic interventions that combine family photos with such natural elements as bones, dried flowers, shells, old letters, beads, and (in some cases) inscribed copper frames. In these works, Chong addresses his family history, his Jamaican nationality, and his ethnic roots in Africa and China, adding symbolic allusions to his spirituality. The works from this period own and challenge the “Chiney” label that was applied to his family in Jamaica, one that put Chong in constant physical danger in his native country during the 1970s. My Jamaican Passport The Sisters Chong’s vast artistic output has been honored with such distinctions as a National Endowment of Arts fellowship in 1992 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. In 2006, he was part of the exhibition , celebrating the 44th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. New Possessions at the Art Museum of the Americas back to collection

  • Luis Nishizawa | Cultural Encounters

    Luis Nishizawa (Mexico, B. 1918 – D. 2014) Luis Nishizawa was born on a hacienda in Cuautitlán, Mexico, to a Japanese father, Kenji Nishizawa, and a Mexican mother, María de Jesús Flores. He grew up in the countryside, working on a farm, which has deeply influenced his work. In 1942, he began his studies at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City, and in 1955 became a professor with the same institution, now known as the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas. Over this time, Nishizawa mastered an impressive range of mediums, including ceramics, stained glass, printmaking, drawing, painting, and sculpture. In Mexico, Nishizawa is known for infusing his work with an inimitable "mestizaje cultural" (cultural mixing) of his Japanese and Mexican upbringing. Much of his imagery can be traced to his childhood encounters with the landscapes of Mexico, as well as to Japanese visual sources such as traditional Zen Buddhist landscapes; and his work incorporates traditional influences from both countries, including Mexican muralism and Japanese printmaking and ink techniques. His murals can be seen in Tokyo’s subway system and in the Centro Médico Nacional in Mexico. Nishizawa exhibited at the gallery of the Organization of American States in 1961 as part of the exhibition . He has participated in Tokyo and São Paulo biennials and his work is a highlight of the permanent collections of the Shinano Art Museum in Negano, Japan; the Kyoto Art Museum; and the Museo Carrillo Gil in Mexico, among others. Japanese Artists of the Americas In 1992, the Museo Taller Luis Nishizawa was opened to the public in Toluca, Mexico. The Museo Taller not only demonstrates Nishizawa’s immense artistic production, showcased in seven galleries of its colonial building, but also serves as a reference center and preserves a school where the artist once taught. Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961 Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas 1/4 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 (2017) and the installation (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. Planeta Autorretrato back to collection