Giant Robot, a staple of Asian American alternative pop culture, was launched in 1994 as a hand-assembled zine and quickly grew into a worldwide empire. At its height, Giant Robot included a glossy magazine, a retail website, several brick-and-mortar stores, and even a themed restaurant.
More than two decades after its founding, Giant Robot continues to be regarded as a highly influential brand encompassing many aspects of pop art, skateboarder, comic book, graphic arts, and vinyl toy culture.
Since 2007, JANM has partnered with founder Eric Nakamura to produce the Giant Robot Biennale, a recurring art exhibition dedicated to showcasing the diverse creative works brought together by the Giant Robot ethos. The Biennales, which were initiated as part of JANM’s Salon Pop series of innovative youth culture exhibitions, have been among the museum’s most popular productions. This year, Giant Robot Biennale 4 will continue to celebrate Giant Robot’s distinctive world.
“The Giant Robot Biennale exhibitions showcase the very best Japanese American and Asian-inspired art in the country today,” said Dr. Greg Kimura, JANM president and CEO. “This is a growing area of the art world where some of the most interesting work is currently being done. GRB4 will provoke, inspire, and challenge people’s ideas of pop art and fine art. The museum is thrilled to partner with Eric again for this fourth installment.”
“Bringing Giant Robot to the Japanese American National Museum is something I always look forward to,” said Nakamura. “For Biennale 4, the exploration of drawing is going to both take people back to the roots of the Giant Robot aesthetic and offer them new, exciting works. The unique installation elements we are incorporating are also going to be really special.”
Filling both of JANM’s temporary exhibition spaces, GRB4 will examine the evolution of the Giant Robot aesthetic from its humble origins to its many celebrated manifestations. The lower-level gallery will be devoted to an exploration of the art of drawing, which Nakamura sees as the origin or starting point of the Giant Robot universe. A variety of drawing styles will be showcased, ranging from comic books to street art to illustration.
Featured artworks will include sketchbooks by James Jean, old and new drawings by Jim Lee, and works by the acclaimed Korean artist Kim Jung Gi.
Sources of inspiration will be explored through two innovative elements: a “Giant Robot Room” filled with 50 iconic objects from the history of the brand, including influential books and coveted toys; and a replica of artist Edwin Ushiro’s studio, where visitors will be invited to try their own hand at drawing. In addition, Katsuya Terada will spend a week creating new works live in the gallery, and a video projection of Yumi Sakagawa reading from her acclaimed zines will be featured. Finally, the husband-and-wife team of kozyndan will contribute a special mural at the entrance to the gallery.
The upper-level gallery will focus on the diverse achievements of a range of accomplished artists, many of whose practices remain rooted in drawing. Featured will be exemplary paintings and installations by Luke Chueh, Andrew Hem, Mari Inukai, Audrey Kawasaki, Nathan Ota, Mu Pan, and Yoskay Yamamoto, among other artists. In addition, the alternative photography publisher Hamburger Eyes will contribute an installation of photographs. While showcasing a variety of practices, this collection of work also unites a close cohort of artists, many of whom are colleagues and friends.
The public is invited to celebrate the opening of Giant Robot Biennale 4 with a free party on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 7 to 10 p.m.
The first 500 guests will receive a limited-edition Giant Robot pin. Limit one pin per person; guests must be present to receive a pin.
Special souvenir buttons will be available for customizing with a design started by a Giant Robot artist and completed by you. Take a GRB4 commemorative photo on a special set designed by Nerdbot Photo Booth.
Enjoy complimentary Japanese American foods catered by Mama Musubi. Drinks will be available at a no-host bar.
Deejay music provided by Dublab. Remarks and artist introductions by Kimura and Nakamura at 8 p.m. Live set by electronic musician Daedalus at 8:15 p.m.
A members-only exhibition tour will be given on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 10:30 a.m. Limited to 25 members. RSVP to (213) 830-5646 or email@example.com.
A Giant Robot drawing party on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. Bring your sketchpad and favorite drawing instruments and work on your projects while listening to live music by Goh Nakamura. Beer will be available for purchase (cash only). Food trucks will be on site. This program is free, but RSVPs are recommended.
The Premier Sponsor of Giant Robot Biennale 4 is the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Pasadena Art Alliance is a Patron Sponsor and The Rafu Shimpo is Media Sponsor.
General admission to JANM is $9 for adults, $5 for youth ages 6 to 17 and seniors age 62 and over. Admission is free for children age 5 and under and JANM members. For more information about Giant Robot Biennale 4, and related public programs, visit http://janm.org/grb4.