Uncluttering Amanda Ross-Ho

Amanda Ross-Ho is an artist quickly becoming harder to miss. And it’s not just due to the physical presence of her work, which often generously fills the spaces of large exhibition rooms—or in the case of The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things, a handful square meters of a busy street front (shown above and below).  Instead, I’ve found that the forcefulness of her art results from the contrasting display, in all of her pieces, of both Ross-Ho’s understanding and skepticism of her own unique identity.

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Fig. 1 The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things, MCA, Chicago, 2013
Photo by Bianca Eyales

In questions of identity—both of her own and, more interestingly, that of the greater population of Asian-American artists—Ross-Ho is as involved in the discussion as they come. And, not just through art, but also through literature. She is, for instance, featured in War Baby / Love Child a book edited by Laura Kina and Wei Ming Dariotis, which the University of Washington Press describes as an examination of the “hybrid Asian American identity […] at the intersection of critical mixed race studies and contemporary art.”

Hence, while her biography on The Saatchi Gallery identifies Ross-Ho’s inspiration as in “detritus: the clutter and remnants of daily existence, and the ‘negative space’ of things over looked” and “the subtle beauty of coincidence and anomaly,” these themes, seemingly detached from explorations of identity, when truly considered in the context of Ross-Ho’s life story, become so clearly intertwined with the experience of Asian-American artists. After all, it is in a lack of understanding of such cultural contexts that a person’s role and importance in society may be undervalued or disregarded and it is in face of the unfamiliar that people classify the unconventional as an oddity.

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Fig. 2 Teeny Tiny Woman, Amanda Ross-Ho, MOCA, Los Angeles, 2012
Photo by Brian Forrest

Through her participation in the literary examination of Asian-American artist identity, the impact of Ross-Ho’s work therefore extends far beyond her larger-than-life installations and assemblages. She is affecting an entire community, promoting its further acceptance and campaigning for its celebration. She’s not simply an artist but a dynamic individual to watch.

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