Many people complain about something lacking from their lives, but few actually do anything about it. Eric Nakamura is different. He has not only filled that gap, he has created a new movement.
Nakamura is the creator of Giant Robot, now a store with a sister gallery in Los Angeles, which spurred an ever-growing interest in Asian and Asian American pop culture. He is also the curator of the exhibit, “Giant Robot Biennale 4,” set to open Oct. 11 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Giant Robot began as a ‘zine, covering Nakamura’s interests, such as live action robot shows, kung fu films, imported toys and international foods.
“I grew up with a mix of both cultures (American and Asian) and I didn’t see a publication out there that documented that kind of hybrid,” Nakamura said.
After being deluged by readers asking if they could visit the Giant Robot office to see the products advertised in the ‘zine, Nakamura decided to open a store. Then he took his hybrid idea a step further by also using the space to exhibit art.
Today, some 21 years and a plethora of copycat store/galleries later, Nakamura still shrugs the notion of success. However, he credits Giant Robot’s longevity to his devotion to fairness and honesty.
“The culture of Giant Robot is an artist family experience, which is different. We do things contrary to how a gallery would do things,” Nakamura said.
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 24, is the fourth time Giant Robot and JANM have united for an art exhibit.
“Asian and Asian American pop art has exploded in popularity,” said JANM president and CEO Greg Kimura. “Giant Robot really is the premiere example of that. It’s bringing some of these known and some of these rising artists to the public consciousness and, because of that, JANM is becoming known as a place where folks can come to discover very interesting and frequently provocative contemporary art.”
Nakamura has divided “Giant Robot Biennale 4” inside JANM, devoting the ground floor to drawings, including comics, ‘zines and sketchbooks, and showing art from a range of disciplines upstairs.
Two large murals by Andrew Hem and kozyndan will also be featured in the exhibit, as well as work by artists, such as James Jean, Jim Lee, Kim Jung Gi, Katsuya Terada, Luke Chueh, Audrey Kawasaki, Nathan Ota, Mu Pan and Yoskay Yamamoto.
In addition, there will be a photography installation from Hamburger Eyes.
Nakamura finds it hard to name a favorite artist, but he admits that he roots for “the underdogs who are working extra hard.” An example of this is Yumi Sakugawa, whose work can be seen in ‘zines and comics. There will be a video installation featuring a ‘zine reading by Sakugawa.
Kimura is also a big fan of Edwin Ushiro, citing the artist as “someone to watch.”
“He’s huge right now, but he’s growing even bigger as a national and international artist,” Kimura added.
There will be a replica of Ushiro’s studio on site in which visitors will be invited to draw.
Kimura also likes Rob Sato’s technical ability and admires the shocking imagery of Mari Inukai, stating that the artists makes you feel differently about the world around you, as well as art itself.
“I like to think that Giant Robot has established a culture of some sort that maybe changed the landscape a little bit of what art is and then what a shop is like and what culture can be,” Nakamura said. “These are things that I grew up with that were separate and we unified and turned it into a package of some sort.”
Want to go?
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday and noon-8 p.m. Thursday from Oct. 11-Jan. 24. Free opening celebration 7-10 p.m.
Where: Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
Tickets: $9 adults, $5 seniors and children 6-17 and free for children 5 and younger.
Information: 213-625-0414, www.janm.org
Also, check out the Giant Robot Store!
Giant Robot Store
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 2015 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles.
Information: 310-478-1819, www.giantrobot.com
Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 2062 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles.
Information: 424-246-7626, www.giantrobot.com
“Welcome Home” by Esao Andrews will be on exhibit in “Giant Robot Biennale 4” at the Japanese American Naitonal Museum in Los Angeles Oct. 11-Jan. 24.