“Criticism and scholarship makes a difference grows out of palpable conviction—a belief that the stakes of an art practice go beyond professionalism, expertise, and mastery of a subfield,” a David Joselit writes in the current Artforum,
“Karin Higa’s exhibitions and essays possessed that special quality. In part this is because her path-breaking curatorial projects like “The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945,” 1992, bore links to her own heritage as a Japanese American. But such biographical connections aren’t sufficient to explain the special intensity Higa had as a leader in the field of contemporary art, especially but not exclusively in building a complex and nuanced understanding of Asian American experience within it. Higa was awake; she engaged seriously with all kinds of visual worlds from fashion to food to architecture and she knew how to bring the richness and contradictions of life into her analysis of art. She was rigorously honest—she meant what she said, and her critical assessments were always based on a deep and constant practice of looking at art, and interacting with artists. Moreover, Higa was devoted not only to her own curatorial projects and scholarship but to institution building. Her efforts in this regard range from her early participation in the Godzilla Asian American Art Network and her dedication to establishing a world-class art program at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, where she worked in various capacities from 1992 to 2006, to her service on numerous panels and committees, including chairing the editorial board of Art Journal from 2010 to 2012. Higa was committed to making the art world more inclusive, more complex, and more humane.
“I remember how excited I was when the Hammer Museum chose Higa to co-curate the 2014 “Made in L.A.” biennial along with the writer and curator Michael Ned Holte. It is one of the many losses resulting from her untimely death from cancer on October 29, 2013 at the age of 47 that she was unable to complete this project. Higa was an inspired choice because of her special capacity to articulate the complexities of “identification”—the assignment of an identity as conditioned through diverse visual media. Continue reading “Karin Higa, 1966-2013”