Sorry everyone for making you wait so long to see the Labbit collection in its entirety, but please believe me when I say I have been working round the clock to get the show up while also managing my regular job.
Anyway, I just took the last shot an hour ago (for the Labbit that arrived an hour before we set up) and got every piece online. Five pieces sold last night at the opening, but there are plenty of fantastic pieces left to choose from as you will see.
Thanks to all of the artists who participated in the show, and all of the people who came to the opening night. It all amounts to support for the Museum!
The last arrival was from artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani of New York. He gets special dispensation because he is 92 years old and wasn’t quite sure what to make of my request to be in a custom toy show. For those of you who are familiar with Jimmy’s story through the DVD “The Cats of Mirikitani“, you may notice a slight resemblance to the artist in this piece. If you haven’t seen the DVD, you can buy one in the Museum Store when you come to admire the Labbit show in person.
I have received a couple of inquiries as to the origin of the title for the Year of the Labbit show, so I thought perhaps an explanation was in order. I was not trying to confuse, confound, or humiliate anyone for not being able to pronounce Ls and Rs (like my mother planned to when she wanted to name me Laura so neither my Chinese nor Japanese grandparents would be able to say my name correctly –Lola, Rora,..)
The blank toy that was used for the show was an already existing product created by Kid Robot and the artist Frank Kozik. I wondered about the name since the toy had absolutely no reflection of any Asian influences. I assumed it was a combination of the Latin based word for “rabbit” which in French at least is “lapin” and “rabbit”, and left it at that. There were never any indications that this was aimed at an Asian audience, it never came with Asian themed accessories, and wasn’t questioned until I decided to use it for the blank canvas for this show, at this Museum, and called the show the Year of the Labbit.
I contacted the artist to ask him how the Labbit got its name. Frank told me that his first version of this toy was a mean-looking rabbit with a cigarette in its mouth and a scar on its forehead. I had seen this in his artwork as a “Smorkin’ Labbit”, and indeed several toy versions were made with variations of rabbits and other inanimate objects (like watermelons, hamburgers, etc. all smoking cigarettes.) Frank said that he sent his Smokin’ Rabbit design to Asia for final production. When he received his first shipment of packaged product, someone in Asia had changed everything to “Smorkin’ Labbit”! Rather than scrap the whole project and return everything for a re-do, he decided to let serendipity to play into his product and kept the name as is.
The version of Kozik’s toy we are using is called the Happy Labbit and is a little more family friendly and cute. But basically I chose it because its shape offered the most surface area for artists to paint on.
Whew, working to open two shows a week apart is insane! It always gets done, often without all the behind-the-scenes drama showing up in the final product (see my last post re: drama.) However some important items you should know: 1.) the Labbit Show opens at 6:30 PM on Thursday, July 14. We won’t unveil until then. 2.) Admission to the exhibition is FREE that evening. 3.) Some of the Labbits will be auctioned off on eBay through out the run of the show. These include Labbits by Mike Shinoda, Kip Fulbeck, higashi glaser and Stan Sakai. The auctions will be posted on the Year of the Labbit page on our web site. Each auction will last a week so you will have plenty of time to bid.
Online sales for the other pieces will be up (gulp!) hopefully by the opening night. I can’t tell you exactly when, but keep checking our site. We won’t start selling until the show opens however.
Anyone who has ever organized a custom toy show will tell you that when the art starts rolling in, it’s like you are having your own private Christmas. The quality and ingenuity of the work is very high for this show and we are now thinking that some of the pieces may be auctioned off during the run of the exhibition. Details to come!
The task of photographing all these pieces and prepping them for the web store hasn’t gotten started yet, but I wanted to share a few teasers that were created from photos sent to me by the artists.
I’m not sure what order these will come up in, but the artists are Konatsu, Mark Nagata, and Stan Sakai. I’m sure you will be able to figure out who did what!
I received my preview copy of Allen Say’s upcoming book yesterday and can’t wait to carry it in the Store. Drawing from Memory is based on his 1979 novel, The Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice, which was essentially a biographical account of the defining moments of an artist as a young boy. I read Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice after buying El Chino for my four-year-old child. (I really bought it for myself, because I was blown away by the story of a Chinese American bullfighter!) I wanted to know more about the author and to find other books by him. The story captivated me in its stark, straight-forward examination of life of a pre-adolescent living in post war Japan. It was a story that was at once very extraordinary, yet surprisingly familiar.
Drawing from Memory, the new book, is a fleshing out of Say’s story with the the talent which he has become best known for—his achingly beautiful paintings. He tells the real stories behind the novel, shares pictures and details of his friends and beloved sensei, Noro Shinpei, and also frames a picture of life in post-war Japan.
The visual look of this book shows the versatility of Say’s art—his command of color, line, framing, and storytelling—along with his keen sense of zen spareness. He knows how much is enough.
Here’s a link to the promotion Scholastic is doing with 65,000 librarians. Click on non-fiction. You’ll have to wait through two other promos, but you’ll be rewarded with a sneak peak at Drawing from Memory.
And mark your calendars because Allen Say will be here on September 17 for a Public Program and booksigning. (We will also have some of the original artwork on display that weekend!)
The Museum Store was recently featured in an article in Hyphen Magazine, entitled “Curated Retail”. Ironically, I just read an article about how the word “curate” has been appropriated by all things pop-culture and is consequently over (and incorrectly) used.
But for years I have been describing the work we do in the Store as curatorial. This isn’t necessarily the case with every museum store, although it should be. Selecting or developing merchandise that reflects the museum’s mission is harder than slapping your name and logo on to an otherwise generic souvenir (magnet, spoon, thimble, or—shiver—shot glass.) If a person buys something from our store without going into the exhibitions, I want that person to remember where that object came from and take away a story that will make the name of the museum resonate in his/her memory whenever it is handled. Maybe next time, they will actually come into the museum to see the exhibitions!
When a customer wants to know where our logo mugs are, I steer them to the flowerpot mugs produced for Landscaping America. The mugs include a haiku written by a Japanese American gardener. They are also printed with lead-free glaze, which I felt was an important (and surprisingly difficult to implement) aspect for a product that represented custodians of the garden.
We don’t have a lot of the expected tchotchkes in a museum store, but each item has been selected for how it relates or reflects Japanese Americans and their culture—which is vast and diverse. It rankles me to meet with a vendor who assures me that his product is a “hot-seller in ALL the museum stores” as if all museums had the same mission or should sell the same things. And don’t get me started on shot glasses—the only places where I think these really work are at Alcatraz (they have Mug Shots) or museums that are about the Old West or cocktails.
Member Appreciation Days is this Friday, May 20th through Sunday, May 22nd. We’ll be giving 20% off store purchases to our museum members and to the members of the following cultural institutions. So sign up for a JANM membership and start your museum shopping spree on the cheap!
Not in the L.A. area? We’re honoring the 20% discount at our Museum Store Online too!
The Watase Media Arts Center’s award-winning film, Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray is going to be shown on Comcast throughout the month of May!
About the film:
Having smuggled a lens and film holder into one of America’s concentration camps during World War II, Toyo Miyatake was among the first to photograph this national disgrace. Yet it was his little-known artistic pursuits before the war that honed his discerning eye.
Produced by Karen L. Ishizuka and directed by Robert A. Nakamura with music by David Iwataki, the film is a penetrating portrait of the photographer’s quest to capture the beauty and dignity of everyday life.
The film has won numerous awards, including:
* Official Sundance Film Festival Selection
* Grand Jury Award Best Documentary Short, Florida Film Festival
* CINE Gold Eagle
See it on Comcast this month:
Comcast has a video on demand service called “Cinema Asian America” which was launched in December 2010, featuring a monthly-curated series of Asian American and Asian films—award-winning films fresh from the film festival circuit and classics. These films include both short and feature-length works and the genres range from documentary to narrative to experimental.
From May 1–31, 2011, Toyo Miyatake will be available to all Comcast digital cable subscribers with On-Demand. See below for a list of all major Comcast markets in the U.S. The film will cost $0.99/view.
For those who are able to view Comcast programs, through their digital cable menu, viewers should click on the “On Demand” button, and then look under the “Movies” folder. In this will be a “Movie Collections” folder and inside of this viewers will find “Cinema Asian America” and will be able to access the film.
(The recently released DVD includes Japanese subtitles & includes Moving Memories as a bonus feature. Hosted by George Takei, it features restored and edited home movies from the 1920s and 1930s taken by Japanese American immigrant pioneers as they made America their new home.)
Comcast TV Market:
Birmingham, AL • Dothan, AL • Huntsville, AL • Little Rock, AR • Tucson, AZ • Fresno, CA • Sacramento, CA • San Francisco, CA • Santa Barbara, CA • Colorado Springs, CO • Denver, CO • Hartford, CT • Washington DC • Ft. Myers, FL • Jacksonville, FL • Miami, FL • Orlando, FL • Panama City, FL • Pensacola, FL • Tallahassee, FL • Tampa, FL • West Palm Beach, FL • Atlanta, GA • Augusta, GA • Savannah, GA • Peoria, IL • Chicago, IL • Champaign, IL • Rockford, IL • Ft. Wayne, IN • Indianapolis, IN • South Bend, IN • Charleston, KY • Paducah, KY • Louisville, KY • Monroe, LA • New Orleans, LA • Shreveport, LA • Boston, MA • Springfield, MA • Baltimore, MD • Salisbury, MD • Detroit, MI • Kansas City, MO • Minneapolis, MN • Columbus, MS • Hattiesburg, MS • Jackson, MS • Albuquerque, NM • New York, NY • Youngstown, OH • Portland, OR • Harrisburg, PA • Johnstown, PA • Philadelphia, PA • Pittsburgh, PA • Wilkes-Barre, PA • Charleston, SC • Chattanooga, TN • Knoxville, TN • Memphis, TN •Nashville, TN • Tri-Cities, TN • El Paso, TX • Houston, TX • Salt Lake City, UT • Richmond, VA • Roanoke, VA • Seattle, WA • Spokane, WA • Wheeling, WV