Masters of Modern Design

The Art of the Japanese American Experience

From the hand-drawn typeface on the book cover of The Godfather to Herman Miller’s biomorphic coffee table, the work of Japanese American artists/designers including Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita, and Gyo Obata permeated American postwar culture. While these second generation Japanese American artists have been celebrated, less-discussed is the powerful effect their World War II incarceration—a period of intense hardship and discrimination—had on their lives and art.

This documentary, a co-production between JANM’s Watase Media Arts Center and KCET for the series ARTBOUND, explores the ways in which their camp experiences impacted their existence, influenced their art, and sent them on trajectories that eventually led to their changing the face of American culture with their immense talents.

This film was awarded a Los Angeles area Emmy for the Arts. Learn more

Directed by Akira Boch
Produced by Akira Boch, Evan Kodani, Yuka Murakami, Jac Reyno, Matthew Crotty
Executive Producer Juan Devis
56 minutes

 

Kay Sekimachi

Known as the “weaver’s weaver,” artist Kay Sekimachi is a pioneer in the textile arts. Her embrace of unconventional materials helped to elevate weaving from “craft” to “art.” This profile explores Sekimachi’s connection to other Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) artists of her time and how the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II affected her art and life.

Directed by Akira Boch
Produced by Akira Boch, Evan Kodani, Yuka Murakami, Jac Reyno, Matthew Crotty
Executive Producer Juan Devis
8 minutes

 

Both films are available on a DVD for purchase at the JANM Store. BUY NOW

Download an activity guide produced by JANM’s Education Unit to supplement the documentaries. Download Now

 

Q&A livestreamed on May 29, 2020, with director Akira Boch in conversation with Kiku Obata (designer and daughter of Gyo Obata), Mira Nakashima (furniture designer and daughter of George Nakashima), Kenji Fujita (artist and son of S. Neil Fujita), and Addie Lanier (educator and daughter of Ruth Asawa) as they talked about their parents.

 

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