How does one make a comeback after an absence of nine years? In reading the archived blog posts I am astonished at how it seems we dropped off the face of the earth after the Kokeshi show in 2009.
And how portentous the last entry was--Good-bye Kokeshi, Hello Kitty--because, you see, even though LATDA was not producing exhibitions over the past years, yours truly was working a day job at another museum which was basically directing my creativity in another (more funded) direction. That Hello Kitty exhibition that I was longing for? Well, it happened at the Japanese American National Museum in 2014. And though I was not the curator of that exhibition, I would humbly say that I did have a part in bringing the show to fruition.
In 2011, JANM also produced an exhibition highlighting the wonderful work of Stan Sakai. Usagi Yojimbo was a comic book character that was fully on the radar of LATDA. Part of that exhibit included a custom show incorporating Frank Kozik’s Labbit customized by nearly 50 artists. See that connection there? Art toys in the museum again?
And now it’s happening again. This time I am officially curating an exhibition about an old friend of LATDA’s, Mark Nagata. This is a special treat to highlight the work and life of one of the primary inspirations for the Beyond Ultraman show. I don’t think Mark realizes that when BU was originally being developed it was a Japanese American-centric exhibition about popular culture for the Japanese American community. Mark’s passion and career embodied a very special story. When it became clear that JANM wasn’t ready to delve into popular culture exhibitions, the story evolved into a California art story that ultimately ended up at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. (BTW — when JANM saw the popularity of Beyond Ultraman at PMCA and the Takashi Murakami exhibition at MOCA, they hustled together a show about Giant Robot.)
Many other factors contributed to LATDA’s recession. I like to blame Steve Jobs in part when he rendered Flash unusable on small screen devices. Our wonderful, but long in the tooth, website became dead in the water to anyone with an iPhone. To recover and redesign as compelling a site that was as “responsive” and iFriendly was beyond LATDA’s capacity at the time. We have been slowly trying to regain what we had but it will never be quite as delightful. But we are slow-launching our new webstore (to raise money for our redesign) and reassembling and formatting our old content.
We have created social media sites on Facebook and Instagram, and have attracted new followers through those platforms, but it is not the same without having a live show to hang one’s hat on.
Our early model was that we would create shows by partnering with brick and mortar entities. After Kokeshi, we were approached by one (who shall remain nameless) to develop an exhibition that related to their mission and LATDA’s. We were bound by an incredibly tight deadline (three months) in which time we submitted three full-blown ideas, all of which were slowly considered and then rejected at the last minute. It was a painful and disheartening experience, but not unusual in this world.
We then thought that perhaps it was time to change it up and find a temporary space and create an exhibition unfettered by the partnering with others. For once we hoped we could fly on our own and show what we were really about. In fact we even stumbled on a mobile space—a decommissioned mobile museum. However, this space proved to be more difficult than we expected... since it required a hauling vehicle (with driver) that we did not have, and with space constraints.
With our new web site, we are hoping to share some of these recent exhibition ideas even if they are only virtual. Instead of waiting for a brick and mortar location, we are forging ahead and creating exhibitions online. If there are venues that would like to provide a real space to house our shows: fine; but they will be created complete and ready to go.