Giant Robot Biennale 3: The Famed Asian Pop Culture Magazine Is Gone, But Its Art Still Lives, at Japanese American Museum
Inside Giant Robot Biennale 3 at Little Tokyo's Japanese American National Museum, there are rows of glass cases filled with toys. This is the Remix Project. Eighty-five artists from seven different countries, a mix of both newcomers and established custom toy artists, contributed to the effort. Blank kaiju (monster) figures by Uglydolls artist David Horvath were transformed into beasts that were alternately adorable and gruesome. Giant Robot's own Big Boss Robot toy, which, despite its name is actually quite small, was painted a myriad of colors.
Liz Ohanesian Big Boss Robot custom by Luke Chueh
In the corner of one of the display cases is a particularly significant work by Luke Chueh, the L.A.-based painter whose anthropomorphic animals have spawned his own line of figures. Chueh gave Big Boss Robot a rusty finish and a few tiny copies of the final issue of the Giant Robot's print magazine, which featured Chueh's art on the cover.
"I actually drew little messages on each of those issues," says Chueh of his piece, "like 'Luke Chueh killed Giant Robot and so did Linkin Park.'" Chueh and the band Linkin Park were both interviewed for the issue.
More than a year has passed since that last printed installment of Giant Robot hit the streets, but the magazine's commitment to exposing people to up-and-coming artists lives on Giant Robot's still-active website and gallery GR2's frequent shows and larger events like the Biennale. For more than a decade, Giant Robot included dozens of rising art stars in its "Asian pop culture and beyond" coverage. Everyone from Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara to David Choe and James Jean appeared within its pages. But what began as a zine founded in the mid-1990s by Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong evolved into something much bigger, a community of artists and art lovers.
Liz Ohanesian Sean Chao's Giant Cat Robot
"I really believe that Giant Robot helped promote that the fact that there is more to this scene than the Japanese Superflat artists," says Chueh, referencing artist Murakami and like-minded artists in Japan.
He stresses, "I'm really glad to be a part of that entire network of artists."
Up next: More about what's on display at the museum now