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Korean American Artists and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots


The historiography of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots have several trajectories within the history of Los Angeles that reshape the contours of the transnational turn in the humanities. The riots move the discursive framework towards a comparative scope that allows for an overlap of the structures of migration, inequality, and globalization. The state of emergency that framed the riots exposes the ideological state apparatus within multiple levels of hegemony. This dissertation synthesizes the event, the art objects, and the Kunstwollen that are intertwined to produce art historical research. A foundational understanding of the visual culture and the riots provide a clear subtext to the political and economic genealogy of art objects in this dissertation. The overarching argument in my dissertation is that art practice yields a particular kind of knowledge production. The rhetorical positions articulated by Korean American artists about the L.A. riots elucidates localized geopolitical struggles. Instead of a biographical survey of one artist, the analysis of multiple artists centered around one event propels art historical analysis towards a transdisciplinary approach that extends the hermeneutics of art practice towards cultural geography, critical media studies and epistemology. My work intervenes the rhetoric of the necessary third to fourth generation gap for the kind of assimilation and development of identity formation that should not be unilaterally assumed and applied to all immigrant histories. Rather than regurgitating a multicultural thesis, my framework uses the arguments made visual in the artwork that de-romanticizes the story of migration. Therefore my analysis of the artworks elucidates alternative approaches to Korean American history

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