Art can be a portal through time and space, into the mind of an artist. James Suzuki was an artist born in Japan, who moved to the United States at the age of 19, shortly after World War II. Through the study of his 1973 oil painting, West Coast, this project investigates the ways in which Suzuki’s connections to the artistic traditions and cultures of both America and Japan are displayed. This work combines the genre of Color Field painting--recognized for its use of color as the central focus of the art--with natural imagery from the Japanese tradition. Color Field painting emerged from the hyper-American Abstract Expressionist art movement that developed during the postwar period and was used as a representation of ideal American values such as freedom, individuality, and innovation. During a time when art was seen as intrinsically political, West Coast connects two opposing narratives by using imagery from his Japanese background within the aesthetics of the Color Field genre. Through Suzuki, I explore the dynamic between the nations of the United States of America and Japan insofar as they affected the lives of Japanese Americans as expressed through art. I take note of Japan’s unique position in the global context, both broadly historically and as it changed after the war. I synthesize primary accounts with sources from across disciplines into a consideration of the role of Japanese American artists, reflecting influences from Japan, a nation which is geographically distant, and from America, which is culturally distant.
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Langsdorf, Kate, "The Color of the West Coast" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 80.