By NANCY UYEMURA
A new book by Alan Nakagawa, published by Writ Large Press, has just been released and there is a book-signing at Self Help Graphics scheduled for Friday, Feb. 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Self Help Graphics and Art, 1300 E 1st St. in East L.A.
For those of you unfamiliar with Alan Nakagawa or his work, this is how artist and writer Devon Tsuno describes him in an L.A.Times article: “He unearths and unpacks forgotten histories through meticulous research and his expansive, multidisciplinary artistic practice. As an oral historian and sound artist, he is interested in what the past and future sound like — he’s curious and patient, generous and meticulous, a true practitioner of paying it forward.” (“Forgotten histories are hiding everywhere in L.A. These artists know where to look,” March 17, 2022)
I’ve known Alan for many decades and its hard to believe that all this time has passed and this young man has become this accomplished creative artist and community arts activist.
His newly published book, “A.I.R.Head: Anatomy of an Artist in Residence,” is a great read and whether you know Alan or not, it’s interesting to learn about his life growing up as a Japanese American in mid-town L.A. and the many paths he chose as he navigated his life as an artist, musician, single dad, community artist and historian (this list goes on but when you read his book you will see the many facets of this special human being).
If you have ever wondered about what’s its like to be or think like an artist, Alan takes you on a project-by-project journey through time and space, showing the many steps that go into the creation of a piece of his art, and he makes you aware of the many paths you need to take to accomplish that journey.
Everyone is different and that goes for artists in particular, but Alan’s life as a Japanese American growing up in mid-town Los Angeles is particularly interesting for those of us that share parts of the same space. Whether geographical or generational, cultural or spiritual, we are able to share memories and events that bridge the gap of reality, dreams and spiritual phenomena.
Alan gives an account of his life as a sound artist and oral historian and how he works at preserving some of the endangered species in our own backyards — such as butterflies, plants or a sensory memory that is jarred by a taste, smell, feel or sound that transports you to a past ephemeral place that you either loved or tried to forget. As a fellow artist I can so identify with parts of his life and the people, places and things that were and are still part of his life here in Los Angeles.
It was interesting to read about the role his parents and neighborhood, friends and educational path played in his becoming an artist as well as developing his innate talents. As Japanese Americans we’re so fortunate to have someone like Alan who cares so much about people and his community that he continues to share his curiosity and passion with the rest of us.
Alan’s parents immigrated from Japan after the war and opened a restaurant, Beni Basha, that was on Olympic near Crenshaw. Some of us can remember going there and eating good Japanese-style comfort food. It’s part of Alan’s DNA that he will incorporate a meal or special treat that he made himself when and if you are lucky enough to be invited to his place for an oral history session or a sound experience.
“I’m constantly thinking of time as a multi-existence reality,” Alan says.
Other events are planned and are listed if you check his website, www.alannakagawa.com.