Asian-American Labor and Enterprise: Erasure and Visibility

See - Look closely at these two works from UMMA's collection.  Take some time to describe each of them. What do you see? How do you see it? Pay attention both to what's depicted but also all the choices that the artist made about how to depict these things. Ask yourself about the artists' use of line, shape, texture, color, space, and perspective.

Think/Feel - Consider each work separately. As you look and describe, what does the image get you thinking about? Does it evoke any emotions? Speculate about meanings or interpretations that the work might generate for viewers? What does each of the works seem to say about the people depicted?


Read about David Chun's depiction of the shrimp farm here.

1) How does Chun's piece relate to the history of Asian-American enterprise and labor going back to the 19th century?

2) What connections can you make between Chun's artwork, the history it connects to, and the broad themes and questions of your class?  

Read about the Refregier sketch here.

3) What was unique and groundbreaking about Refregier's mural? Why did some people criticize it when it was unveiled?

4) How is Refregier's work different from the famous historical photograph depicting completion of the transatlantic railroad? What does this comparison make you think about the apparent documentary truthfulness of photography? Which image is a better document of history?

5) What connections can you make between Refregier's artwork, the history it connects to, and the broad themes and questions of your class? 

David Chun
Chinese Shrimp Camp
lithograph on paper
9 ¾ in x 14 ⅛ in (24.77 cm x 35.88 cm)
Allocated by the U.S. Government Commissioned through the New Deal art projects
This drawing shows the head of a man. Sketched lines with shading around cheeks and eyes, which are closed, create the visage.  A faintly visible hat is sketched on the head. The drawing is signed (u.r.) "Anton Refregier." It may also say "San Francisco" although the handwriting is not clear.
Anton Refregier
Study of a Man's Head for "History of California"
graphite on paper
16 3/4 in x 13 15/16 in (42.55 cm x 35.4 cm)


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Last Updated

March 5, 2021 12:49 p.m.


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