Beauty in Enormous Bleakness: The Design Legacy of the Interned Generation of Japanese Americans and its affiliated exhibition explores architecture’s relationship to issues of immigration, exclusion, and cultural identity in 20th-century American life, focusing on the design legacies of the mass-incarceration of individuals of Japanese descent during WWII. Through this exhibition and other means, BIEB collaborators document the lives and works of Japanese American architects who survived internment, focusing on their contributions to the post-war cultural landscape.
This exhibition considers four architects––Gyo Obata, Richard Henmi, George Matsumoto, and Fred Toguchi––who left the incarceration camps to study at Washington University. Like much of the art and design produced by the interned generation of Japanese Americans, the work of these architects would be embraced as “American,” “democratic,” and “modern”––ideas that required a willful disregard of events of the recent past.
Acknowledging the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese American students to WUSTL, this exhibition showcases the architect’s influential work while exploring the hidden history of the incarceration and postwar reintegration––“hidden,” that is, in plain sight, across St. Louis and the broader American landscape, in locations both celebrated and unknown.
Curated by: Kelley Van Dyck Murphy (College of Architecture), Heidi Aronson Kolk(College of Art), Sam Fox School, with Lynnette Widder (Columbia University) and Gabriela Noami Caden Senno (WUSTL ’22).
Special thanks to: Jessi Cerutti (Exhibitions Manager), Ian Lanius (Exhibitions Preparator), and Miranda Rectenwald (Curator of Local History) from the John B. Olin Library; Gabriela Naomi Caden Senno and Makio Yamamoto (BIEB Digital + Research Assistant); the students in “Matsumoto Modern,” Sam Fox School College of Architecture course, FL22.