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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Yasuo Kuniyoshi: Anxiety and Americanness


This paper examines the work of Japanese-American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi as he expressively naviates his dual identity. Working within Modernist and Folk styles, his work blends Japanese idioms with American folk art influences as well as that of European modernism, engaging with global art practices. This conglomeration of influences, in addition to his public fame as an artist, came under scrutiny during World War II as Kuniyoshi’s position as an American was threatened. This artist’s work in propaganda against Japan further complicated his modes of expression through his art as he was challenged to refine his representational codes in order to protect himself. Kuniyoshi’s oeuvre nuances the role of the artist in relation to nationalism, challenges conceptions of Modernist appropriative styles, and questions what it means to be an American.

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