Curated by artist Anna Sew Hoy, with support from ICA LA Executive Director Anne Ellegood, Scratching at the Moon presents an intergenerational group of thirteen leading artists in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community who currently live and work in Los Angeles or have strong ties to the city, including Patty Chang, Young Chung, Yong Soon Min, Vishal Jugdeo, Miljohn Ruperto, Simon Leung, Michelle Lopez, Na Mira, Amanda Ross-Ho, Dean Sameshima, Anna Sew Hoy, Amy Yao, and Bruce Yonemoto. These artists’ contributions to culture are multiple, ranging from their distinctive visual arts production to their commitment to pedagogy to their dedication to research, activism, and community engagement. While addressing pressing topics that resonate broadly across the U.S. and beyond, the exhibition focuses on artistic production in Los Angeles. In doing so, the project reveals the unique stories related to spaces across the city in which AAPI artists and communities have flourished over the last 20 years. These include the gallery scene that blossomed in Chinatown and spread to Culver City, neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Echo Park which serve as hubs for queer POC artists, emerging nonprofit spaces like REDCAT and LAXART, and the numerous art schools across Southern California where many of these artists continue to teach. Considered together, the exhibition, along with the accompanying catalogue and public programs, celebrates and historicizes the important work of these acclaimed artists who are deserving of wider recognition, while also tracing the overlapping activities among dynamic artistic communities that have come to define the Los Angeles art world over the past two decades.
Scratching at the Moon was initially inspired by recent social justice movements initiated by AAPI artists and arts workers to defend Black and AAPI communities against continued hate crimes and to create community, build alliances, and encourage dialogue about ongoing social and political marginalization. While Los Angeles has long been home to a large and growing AAPI population, the work of artists from diasporic immigrant communities remains underrepresented in art institutions in the city and in contemporary art discourse more broadly. In response, new organizations have formed in Los Angeles, such as GYOPO and the AAPI Arts Network, which aim to increase the visibility of diasporic artistic production at a time of heightened exclusion from the field. In doing so, they draw upon the inspiring model of historical activist artist collectives like Godzilla, an Asian American arts network founded in New York in 1990.
Contributing to these efforts of coalition building and collaboration, Scratching at the Moon presents significant works by a diverse group of AAPI artists—some born in the United States and others who emigrated here from Korea, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Canada—celebrating these artists, mapping their roles within a variety of cultural contexts in LA, and bringing increased attention to their work within the broader contemporary art world. The exhibition deliberately focuses on artists whose work is wide ranging, encompassing video, multi-media installation, sculpture, ceramics, photography, and performance, and confronting such topics as gender roles, structural racism, immigration, displacement, gentrification, family, and the archive. A recurring thread uniting their diverse practices is a relationship to the immigrant experience—an experience often misunderstood and intentionally misrepresented in U.S. nationalist rhetoric. Throughout their works, the artists’ commitment to community, criticality, and resistance come to the fore.