• Hidden in Plain Sight: Selected Writings of Karin Higa
    Julie Ault
    Pamela Lee
    Karin Higa
    Dancing Foxes Press, 2022
    Julie Ault

Chiura Obata, “New Moon,” not before 1943. Chiura Obata papers, circa 1891–2000, 1942–1945. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Photo: Kurl Swartz

Hidden in Plain Sight presents essential writings and exhibitions by the art historian and curator Karin Higa (1966–2013). The selected essays focus on artists, artistic production, and communities that took root within the World War II Japanese internment camps. Ruth Asawa, Toyo Miyatake, Chiura Obata, and Henry Sugimoto are some of the important figures included. Acutely aware of the hazards of imposed ethnic and racial classifications, Higa’s work explored the inherent complexity that marks the “genre” of Asian American art and its study. Through her essays, Higa recovered vital art practices and hidden histories of creative struggle and, in the process, mapped individual practices, networks, and communal life—from the camps, to the Shaku-Do-Sha association, or Little Tokyo, all as fertile creative contexts.

Karin Higa (1966–2013) was a trailblazer for twentieth and twenty-first century Japanese-American art. Moving between curatorial practice and scholarly production, Higa forged a path that valued curating and scholarship around categories of cultural and ethnic identity, while investigating the interpretive pitfalls such groupings impose. Higa’s method was rooted in the conviction that art and the lived experience of the past were indissolubly linked. She began her career in 1991 as a curator at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and was later director of exhibitions and senior curator 1999–2006. Projects include The View From Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942–1945 (1992); Bruce and Norman Yonemoto: Memory, Matter and Modern Romance (1999); and Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art (2008). Higa undertook her doctoral studies at the University of Southern California; her dissertation, “Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, 1919–1942: Japanese American Art and Visual Culture,” was unfinished at the time of her death.

Julie Ault is an artist, curator, writer, and editor whose work encompasses the fields of exploratory research, exhibition-making, and publishing. Across these fields, Ault emphasizes relationships between cultural production and politics. Her projects, which frequently adopt curatorial and editorial activity as a creative practice, are characterized by a focus on social and collaborative modes of artistic and historical production. Ault works independently and collaboratively. Ault received her PhD from Malmö Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, Lund University, Sweden in 2011. Ault’s authored and edited volumes include Two Cabins by James Benning; Come Alive: The Spirited Art of Sister Corita; Felix Gonzalez-Torres; and Alternative Art New York 1965–1985. Her most recent exhibition, Nancy Spero: Paper Mirror, took place at MoMA PS1 and Museo Tamayo. In 1979, Ault cofounded Group Material, the New York City-based collaborative which created over fifty exhibitions and projects before disbanding in 1996. Ault was a class of 2018 MacArthur Fellow.