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.
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.
Esao Andrews • Luke Chueh • Hamburger Eyes • Haroshi • Andrew Hem • Mari Inukai • James Jean • Audrey Kawasaki • Kim Jung Gi • kozyndan • Jim Lee • Mike Lee • Nathan Ota • Mu Pan • Yumi Sakugawa • Shizu Saldamando • Masakatsu Sashie • Rob Sato • Amy Sol • Katsuya Terada • Edwin Ushiro • Ai Yamaguchi • Yoskay Yamamoto
Giant Robot Biennale 4 is part of JANM’s Salon Pop series, which spotlights the innovative creative work of Asians and Asian Americans who are influencing American culture.