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Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 -- The William F. Wu Collection
Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 — The William F. Wu Collection showcases a selection of potent and indelible images of Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream comics from four defining decades of American history.
In Fall 2012, the Museum of Chinese in America will launch two connected exhibitions on the relationship between Asian Americans and comics: Marvels and Monsters examines stereotypical and politically charged depictions of Asians and Asian Americans, while Alt.Comics presents Asian Americans using the medium to craft and present their own narratives.
Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 — The William F. Wu Collection showcases a selection of potent and indelible images of Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream comics from four defining decades of American history. The images are placed in historical context and in a discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators including Ken Chen, Larry Hama, David Henry Hwang, Vijay Prashad, and Gene Luen Yang. The exhibition also contains elements designed to encourage direct engagement with the archetypes, such as life-sized cutouts that allow visitors to put themselves "inside the image" and an installation called "Shades of Yellow" that matches the shades used for Asian skin tones in the comics with their garish PantoneTM color equivalents.
Science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu painstakingly gathered an archive of comics distinguished not only by its size and reach, but by its scope: It is perhaps the world's only, and certainly the largest, collection of comic books featuring images of Asians and Asian Americans. Marvels and Monsters draws from this important collection, recently donated with the help of A/P/A Institute to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.
Wu's archive offers a unique and fascinating look at America's evolving racial and cultural sensibility — showing how images that began as racist and xenophobic propaganda during times of war and nativist unrest have coalesced into archetypes that still define America's perception of Asians today.
Marvels & Monsters is curated by Jeff Yang and organized by the A/P/A Institute at NYU; it was originally exhibited at NYU Fales Library, and was recently shown at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia. Jeff Yang is a cultural studies scholar and the editor of Secret Identities; he writes a column for the Wall Street Journal online called Tao Jones.
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