OP12: Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn
Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn were Asian American artists who made major contributions to the two most important movements in American art between 1930 and 1960—Regionalism and Abstract Expressionism. Today, however, art historians and the general public have largely forgotten them. Chong and Chinn worked in close collaboration during the 1930s and 1940s and invented a new watercolor style: using Chinese ink painting techniques and evocative calligraphic poetry to portray everyday subjects from the Western United States. The art historical literature overlooks these innovative artworks, which were a unique form of West Coast Regionalism. The artists also gave instruction on Eastern aesthetics to Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson, who were later grouped together as core members of the “Northwest School” and became very well-known for producing Asian-inspired Abstract Expressionism. The members of the Northwest School eclipsed Chong and Chinn—their friends, teachers, and, arguably, artistic equals. Art historians must examine how the Western artistic canon is determined, and ask why the history of American art includes certain artists, while excluding others of equal merit. This essay will reevaluate Chong’s and Chinn’s rightful places in twentieth century visual culture, and, in so doing, revise Asian American and modern American art histories.
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