Lee, Anthony W. 1960-
LEE, Anthony W. 1960-
AWARDS, HONORS: Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2001, and Cultural Studies Book Award, Association of Asian American Studies, 2003, both for Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco.
Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in SanFrancisco, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
(Editor) Yun Gee: Poetry, Writings, Art, Memories, Pasadena Museum of California Art (Pasadena, CA), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A second book on Diego Rivera.
SIDELIGHTS: Anthony W. Lee is an art historian who "'decodes' the visual by connecting it with the social movements, political struggles, and cultural prejudices that surround it," according to a description of Lee's work on the Mount Holyoke College Web site. In his first art history book, Painting on the Left: Diego Rivera, Radical Politics, and San Francisco's Public Murals, Lee writes about Diego Rivera, a Mexican artist who received immense fame in the United States in the 1930s for his murals and for his fiery personality and political beliefs.
Seen in the light of an "artist-hero" in Mexico, Rivera was a prodigious artist who, according to David Craven in the Latin American Research Review, created "over six thousand square meters in key public places of virtuoso painting in fresco." Painting on the Left focuses primarily on three mural complexes that Rivera painted in San Francisco during the 1930s: "Allegory of California," painted in 1930-31 at the Stock Exchange Lunch Club; "Making a Fresco, Showing the Building of a City," done a few months later at the California School of Fine Arts; and "Pan American Unity," painted in 1940 for the Golden Gate International Exposition. Lee outlines how Rivera and other painters used their murals to make political statements that were generally in favor of labor and radical ideologies like Communism. Rivera's mural at the Rockefeller Center in New York, for example, was subsequently destroyed in 1933 when he refused to paint over the image of Russian communist founder Vladimir Ilich Lenin.
"Lee's text, more than simply a description of Rivera's career in the Bay Area . . . , presents a panorama of artistic activities that the author observes and analyzes through the lens of the complex political situation that took place in San Francisco from about 1915 to the outbreak or World War II," wrote Edward J. Sullivan in Art Journal. Sullivan went on to note that "Lee's sweeping history . . . puts into much greater perspective the complex internecine wars between the avant-garde and the rear-guard artists that were fought with enthusiasm from the turn of the century onward." In his review for Latin-American Research Review, Craven noted that the book has some weaknesses, including the segment about Rivera's life and career in Mexico prior to coming to the United States. Nevertheless, Craven asserted, "Lee has written a 'social history of art,' one that commands attention with its vivacity and rigor."
In Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco, the author takes the reader on a visual and intellectual tour of San Francisco's Chinatown through more than 160 photographs and paintings depicting Chinatown during its first one hundred years: 1850 to 1950. Lee's primary concern is to bring together art history and the social and political history of San Francisco and how Chinatown influenced both. He delves into individual lives of artists and the men and women of Chinatown whom the artists encountered. He also presents the artistic work of the era's most talented artists from photographers such as Laura Adams and painters such as Edwin Deakin and Yun Gee to the members of the Chinese Revolutionary Artists' Club.
Writing in the Library Journal, David McClelland felt that while the work is somewhat academic and dry, Picturing Chinatown is nevertheless "well written, well researched, and beautifully produced." In a review in the International Examiner, James Leong referred to the book as "a lavish pictorial history" and wrote, "If there is one book that belongs in a library of Chinese American history, it is Picturing Chinatown." For David Brody, writing in the Art Journal, the book represents "the type of project that should be lauded as a model for Americanists who want to explore the complex terrain of Orientalism in American visual culture."
Diane Arbus: Family Albums is a collaborative effort between Lee and John Pultz that presents a significant amount of previously unpublished pictures taken by the noted photographer, who died in 1971. Among the pictures examined are more than three hundred photographs Arbus took of one family in New York over a holiday in 1969. In addition to the pictures presented in the form of Arbus's original contact sheets, the authors provide commentary and new insight into Arbus's photographic strategies and her overall body of work, which often focused on what a Publishers Weekly contributor called "segments of American society considered 'marginal': circus freaks, nudists, mentally challenged adults, homeless people." Douglas Smith, writing in the Library Journal, concluded that Diane Arbus "takes a new perspective that will help expand her reputation beyond that of an illuminator of social marginalia."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Afterimage, November-December, 2003, Frederick Gross, review of Diane Arbus: Family Albums, p. 16.
Art Journal, fall, 1999, Edward J. Sullivan, review of Painting on the Left: Diego Rivera, Radical Politics, and San Francisco's Public Murals, p. 112; fall, 2003, David Brody, review of Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco, p. 107.
International Examiner (Seattle, WA), April 30, 2002, James Leong, review of Picturing Chinatown, p. 16.
Journal of Asian American Studies, June, 2002, Nancy Um, review of Picturing Chinatown, p. 185.
Latin American Research Review, summer, 2001, David Craven, review of Painting on the Left, p. 221.
Library Journal, December, 2001, David McClelland, review of Picturing Chinatown, p. 116; January, 2004, Douglas Smith, review of Diane Arbus, p. 98.
New Yorker, October 13, 2003, Judith Thurman, review of Diane Arbus, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, September 8, 2003, review of Diane Arbus, p. 72.
Village Voice, January 21-27, 2004, Vince Aletti, review of Diane Arbus, p. C79.
Mount Holyoke College Web site,http://www.mtholyoke.edu/ (December 15, 2004), "Anthony Lee."*