Review Of "Becoming American?: The Art And Identity Crisis Of Yasuo Kuniyoshi" By S. Wang

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This book's primary subject is Kuniyoshi's self-identity during WW II. Tagged an enemy alien for his name and looks, the artist had much to ponder over his sense of divided self even though, having immigrated to the US in 1906 when 13 years old, his Japanese linguistic and cultural heritage was presumably negligible, and his social status as a respected New York artist in his 50s was well assured. The first two chapters probe his anxiety about inner security and public image. The author then discusses the 1943 painting Somebody Tore My Poster, illustrated on the jacket (the only color reproduction), providing a strenuous iconographic reading designed to serve as evidence of the artist's personal crisis. The final section concerns the infamous McCarthy era with its xenophobic notion of the Americanness of American art, a further social pressure on the artist's psyche. The book illuminates, if not so much Kuniyoshi's colorful art, the heretofore-less-known sociopolitical history in his career, and it offers a timely lesson. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through graduate students.


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