Giant Robot Biennale 3 — Opening Party on Sept 22nd

 Giant Robot is returning to JANM!

GRB3 Opening Party
Saturday, September 22
6PM – 10PM
FREE!

Giant Robot Biennale 3 opens with a party on Saturday, September 22.

Join us as we celebrate the exhibition opening with curator Eric Nakamura, GRB3 artists, and a performance by Money Mark!

The third show in conjunction with Eric Nakamura, owner of Asian American pop culture juggernaut Giant Robot. Giant Robot Biennale 3 will feature a gallery of eight emerging artists along with a customized vinyl figure collection.

Following two previous successful exhibitions at the National Museum, the Biennale continues to push the envelope with a creative, fresh, and uniquely interactive experience. This year’s exhibition highlights the works of Rob Sato, Deth P. Sun, Ako Castuera, Eishi Takaoka, Saelee Oh, Sean Chao, Albert Reyes, and Zach Gage.

Using figures designed by Uglydoll creator David Horvath, Nakamura curated Project Remix, a custom vinyl show with over 80 artists from seven countries—including the rare combination of both established customizers and fine artists.

Special additions to the exhibition include an original piece from Japanese painter Masakatsu Sashie as well as arcade machines running Jeni Yang and Beau Blyth’s new indie video game, Catburger.

Check janm.org/grb3 for more info about the exhibition and related programs.

Sipho Mabona installing "The Plague" at JANM, 2012

Origami Takes Flight: The Installation Work of Sipho Mabona

Sipho Mabona is one of the most accomplished and respected origami artists in the world.

Sipho Mabona installing "The Plague" at JANM, 2012
Mabona installing The Plague at JANM, 2012, Photo by Michael Dressler

Like many folders of complex origami forms, he starts with square sheets of paper and transforms them into bugs, birds and beasts that are so intricately folded that they often take hours to complete. Without using scissors or glue, he is able to create perfectly proportioned, anatomically correct and artistically exquisite representations of swallows, polar bears, insects and even people. He is not the only artist who does this, as we can see from the other folded figures in the Folding Paper exhibition that is currently at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Such artists as Robert J. Lang, Brian Chan and Michael G. LaFosse are renowned for their remarkable folded paper depictions of the natural realm.

What makes this Swiss-South African artist different is what he chooses to do and say with his folded paper bugs, birds and beasts. Mabona’s large-scale installations, often comprising many tens of folded creatures arranged in a particular formation, make bold and very timely political and social statements.

His 2010 work Bearly Surviving, which depicts dozens of polar bears crowded together on a shrinking iceberg—all folded individually from squares of white paper—is a poignant sculptural commentary on the damage caused by climate change. Another of his installations depicts a flock of graceful swallows confronted by a glass window; several have hit the glass and have fallen dead on the floor, suggesting a tragic collision of the human and natural realms.

Bearly Surviving by Sipho Mabona, 2010
Bearly Surviving by Sipho Mabona, 2010, Photo by Sipho Mabona

 

His site-specific installation The Plague, which is currently on view at JANM, contains an even more potent political message. A total 144 locusts take form out of sheets of dollar bills and swarm the gallery, evoking the Biblical plague that was inflicted on humans who had behaved badly.

The Plague by Sipho Mabona, 2012
The Plague, 2012, JANM. Photo by Sipho Mabona.

According to Mabona, the transformation of money into locusts is a reference to the large, multi-national investment corporations that take over smaller companies throughout the world and then discard them for a quick profit. In German-speaking Europe, such corporations, usually foreign, have recently been referred to as Heuschrecken, or locusts, spreading in swarms and greedily devouring local businesses. In 2011, he decided that it was this concept that he wanted to depict in his next installation. Since the US dollar bill has become the global symbol of capitalism, he contacted the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing and ordered sheets of uncut dollar bills for his project. He then flew out to New York to pick them up, as the Bureau won’t send uncut bills overseas.

Sipho Mabona folding sheets of US dollar bills at JANM, March 2010
Mabona folding sheets of US dollar bills at JANM, March 2010. Photo by Meher McArthur.

In October 2011, he began folding his locusts out of squares measuring 7 by 3 bills each. Each locust took approximately 5 hours to fold, and is cleverly designed so that George Washington’s head appears on the wings and upper back, and the phrase “In God We Trust” runs across their foreheads. Mabona was careful to study not only the anatomy of these voracious insects but also their swarming formation; they all fly in the same direction at once. A week before the exhibition opened at JANM, Mabona began installing the piece, attaching each locust to a plastic thread that stretches up to the 35-foot high ceiling and then down to the floor. The effect is quite menacing. It is easy to forget that these creatures are folded out of paper.

Mabona is fascinated by the transformational aspect of origami, the potential to fold a flat square of paper into any form. The concept of transformation plays a large part in The Plague; dollar bills are morphed into a sinister plague of destructive insects. “Although a locust swarm is scary,” says Mabona, “where there is the ability to transform, there is hope. In origami, paper is folded into forms like these locusts, but the forms can be unfolded again. The creases will remain, but the paper can be folded again into something else—perhaps butterflies.”

To see more of Mabona’s work, see www.mabonaorigami.com.

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami is on display through August 26, 2012. Visit the exhibition site for more details, related programs, and origami resources: janm.org/exhibits/foldingpaper

By Meher McArthur
Curator of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

Interview with Patrick Nagatani

We recently interviewed artist Patrick Nagatani and his upcoming retrospective exhibition opening at JANM next weekend. Check out the article on our Discover Nikkei website:

Seeing Beauty Through a Magic Lens: Patrick Nagatani and 35 Years of Art
By Darryl Mori
Read the interview >>

We also just launched the exhibition site which includes more information, including:

– short blurbs about the various series included in the exhibition

– prompts for the upcoming Guide by Cell audio guide that is being prepared with Patrick Nagatani

– an article about the exhibition by Lisa Sasaki who coordinated the travel of the show from the University of New Mexico’s University Art Museum. This is my favorite quote from the artist about why Nagatani feels that JANM is a perfect venue for the exhibition:

“This is the place that my parents will come to see my work. This is the place where it belongs.”

Check out the exhibition site >>

Photo courtesy of Karen Kuehn

Patrick Nagatani exhibition opens November 19

Growing up, I used to put together jigsaw puzzles together with my family. In some ways, working at the museum reminds me of that.

One of the things I enjoy most about working at the museum is getting to learn new stories. The diversity of these stories and the individuals and topics covered keeps my interest continually piqued whether it’s community history, individual stories, cultural traditions, or art. All of these diverse stories are like pieces of the puzzle that make up the Japanese American experience.

Now that Drawing the Line has opened, it’s time to add the next piece of the puzzle. Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani 1978-2008 opens at the museum on November 19th!

Image from "Japanese Children’s Day Carp Banners, Paguate Village, Jackpile Mine Uranium Tailings, Laguna Pueblo Reservation, New Mexico," 1990, Chromogenic print

Created by the University of New Mexico’s University Art Museum, the exhibition is the first comprehensive look at the many and varied projects artist Patrick Nagatani has worked on since 1978.

As I’ve learned more about Nagatani and his process for creating his pieces, I’ve become more interested in seeing them in person and am eagerly awaiting their arrival from New Mexico.

Learn more about the exhibition >>

* * *

SAVE THE DATE!

Gallery Walk Through & Book Signing with Patrick Nagatani
Saturday, December 10 from 2-4pm

December 10th is one of our Target FREE Family Saturdays, so it’s a great day to visit with free crafts & workshops, plus free admission to check out all of our exhibitions!

* * *

Stay tuned for more updates!

“Drawing the Line” exhibition opening soon!

Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles…the title says it all. But what can you really expect to see?

Here's a few quick shots taken on my phone. Just a few teasers from the in-progress installation of "Drawing the Line"

Paintings, sketches, photographs, video clips, historic documents, a trophy, a guitar, and a Corvette!

In-progress installation shot of Ben Sakoguchi paintings in "Drawing the Line"

Curious? Intrigued?

Then make plans to join us for the exhibition opening on Saturday, October 15 at 5:30pm. Some light refreshments, hear from curator Kris Kuramitsu, check out the exhibition, meet some of the artists, and take in a special performance by Nobuko Miyamoto with Benny Yee and Atomic Nancy!

In-progress installation shot of Qris Yamashita's works

Please RSVP to specialevents@janm.org by October 11th for the opening event.

For more information about the exhibition, check out the link below.

This is part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time project, so we hope to have a good turn-out for this event!

DRAWING THE LINE:
Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles
October 15, 2011 through February 19, 2012
janm.org/exhibits/drawingtheline

Thanks to Tom Schay, we'll have a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray in the exhibition. This iconic car and many others were designed by Larry Shinoda.
“Drawing the Line” banner is already outside!

 

“Folding Paper” Preview — Origami exhibition coming to JANM next year!

On Sunday, September 18, the museum hosted a special sneak preview of the upcoming exhibition, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilites of Origami for our Upper Level Members.

Meher McDonald sharing slides of origami works during her presentation.

Meher McArthur, curator for the exhibition that will be opening at JANM in March 2012, gave a wonderful presentation about the history of origami in Japan, but also revealed a tradition of paper folding in Europe that surprised many in the audience.

Museum staff are collaborating with Meher on this exciting exhibition that will look at not just the origins and growth of paper folding, but also present an incredible selection of origami works from a diverse array of “folders” around the world. Not only do they represent countries like Japan, the U.S., France, Belgium, and Vietnam, they are diverse in their backgrounds as well. Some are artists and educators, while a large contingent are from math & science backgrounds.

Many exclamations of amazement from the crowd when Meher informed us that this was made from one piece of paper, and that the artist conceived & figured out how to fold it in his mind!

In addition to the mind-blowing contemporary pieces, the exhibition will also include a section on the influence of origami on science, medicine, fashion, and architecture. A very special section will focus especially on the role of origami cranes as a symbol of global unity and world peace.

This exhibition is being produced to travel by International Arts and Artists, but the Museum is a co-developer and will be the originating venue. Our own origami expert, volunteer Ruthie Kitagawa, is helping to create examples of some of the traditional pieces. It will open at JANM on March 10, 2012 and will travel for 3 years.

Inspired by the documentary, Between the Folds, Meher is putting together an exhibition that will delight and inform kids, educators, mathematicians, artists, and everyone in between.

If you are interested in supporting this exhibition, call Sarah Carle at 213.830.5670 for information about sponsorship opportunities.

P.S. Meher will be guest-blogging here on our FIRST & CENTRAL JANM blog! Check back for updates from her and more behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks!

These masks elicited a lot of 'oohs' and 'aahs'
Geometric origami. (sorry for the quality of the images. Took them on my phone)
Sadako Sasaki's story has inspired people around the world. Very excited that one of the cranes she folded will be in the exhibition.

Becoming American? Reintroducing Issei Artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Next Saturday, on September 24th at 2pm, Dr. ShiPu Wang will be at the Museum to talk about his book, Becoming American? The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi was one of the preeminent 20th century American artists. He was active in New York as a teacher and in both artist circles and Japanese American organizations from pre-war until his death in 1953. At the time, he was an internationally known painter and graphic artist, but sadly is not well known now, particularly in the Japanese American community.

Becoming American? is the first scholarly book in over two decades to offer a critical evaluation of the pivotal art of Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

We asked one of our volunteer writers to interview Dr. Wang about the book for our Discover Nikkei website:

Becoming American? Reintroducing Issei Artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi >>

For more info about the program on September 24 >>

Labbits are up!

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.

Check out all the Labbits online >>

Art in the Streets!

 

One of our neighbors here in Little Tokyo is the The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. They have a wonderful exhibition going on right now Art in the Streets, which is the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art. It was amazing. Here are some pics we took while in their galleries!

If you’re in LA between now and August 8, make a day of it and check out Art in the Streets, then stop by JANM, and then grab a bite in Little Tokyo!