Oscar yi Hou: East of sun, west of moon
October 14, 2022–September 17, 2023
At a time of heightened violence against Asian communities across the United States, Oscar yi Hou questions what it means to be “Asian American” and who is considered “American.” Oscar yi Hou: East of sun, west of moon, named for a poem by the artist, comprises eleven of his recent figurative paintings. In some works, yi Hou casts his friends and himself as East Asian figures from Western history and visual culture, ranging from nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants to Son Goku of the popular media franchise Dragon Ball. In others, the artist depicts his sitters—many of whom, like him, identify as part of a queer, Asian creative community—in traditionally white, masculine roles, upending long-standing stereotypes.
Similarly, yi Hou looks to both popular culture and past references, including the Brooklyn Museum’s newly reinstalled Asian Art collections, in his collage-like approach to these compositions. The artist surrounds his subjects with what he calls “Chinese cowboy” iconography, a kaleidoscope of imagery such as American flags, yin-yang symbols, cowboy hats, and Chinese calligraphy. Through this juxtaposition—and his reclamation of slurs against East Asian people—yi Hou reveals the complexity of identity, as evidenced by his own Chinese British background. Now a resident of Brooklyn, he states: “Even though I am barely an American, I am resolutely an Asian American.”
Yi Hou is the third recipient of the UOVO Prize, which recognizes the work of emerging Brooklyn-based artists. Winners receive a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, a commission for a fifty-by-fifty-foot public art installation on the facade of UOVO’s Brooklyn facility, and a $25,000 unrestricted cash grant. Yi Hou’s mural is on view through June 2023.
Oscar yi Hou: East of sun, west of moon is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, with Indira A. Abiskaroon, Curatorial Assistant, Modern and Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.
The UOVO Prize is made possible by