Giant Robot Biennale 3 at JANM (a.k.a. My GR family reunion)

To most, Giant Robot Biennale 3 at JANM is simply the biggest, best group show that an indie artist can be associated with. It isn’t very often that pop-rooted, independent fine artists (Asian or not) are given a top-shelf venue to gather and shine. Eric does a rad job of cultivating this scene, and has built up a real family of artists in the process. I am really proud to have worked with him on the magazine that has showcased so many of them.

So as the end of publication nears its two year mark, attending the opening felt a lot like a family reunion to me. I hardly get out to Sawtelle these days, and see Eric and the artists pretty rarely. So while it was especially cool to see the amazing art on the first day (such as the sculpture by Ako Castuera, above) it was just as rad to see so many people that I have grown close to (like the Big Boss Robot and his family, below).

Okay, it’s not like I knew everyone there. After I answered the person who checked me in that I was with four guests instead of one, she looked annoyed and asked, “Are you an artist?” No, but I quickly took the stickers for my wife Wendy (who designed GR mags 18-68), daughter Eloise, niece Lucia, and cousin visiting from New Zealand and moved on.

Right after the opening remarks by Eric and JANM representatives, Wendy and I saw our friends Susie Ghahremani and Michael Esten. They drove up from San Diego in time for the Chickfactor concert and stuck around to see Susie’s customs in the opening!

Inside, we saw Uglydolls co-creator and huge friend of GR David Horvath and drummer Fredo Ortiz. I’ve been seeing Fredo play a lot of cool shows lately, from the Los Lobos show at the Greek on Cinco De Mayo to the jam at HUF with Ray Barbee, Tommy Guerrero, and Money Mark. It turns out Mark asked him to play the opening that afternoon (or so), along with Ashley Dzerigian.

Eloise and Lucia’s favorite piece wasn’t one of the customized toys by David Horvath but Jeni Yang‘s installation in which viewers are allowed to sit on giant pieces of bread to watch animated cats. It wasn’t meant to be for kids, but they loved it! Jeni and Sean Chao also just happened to be placed next to each other with their cat-centric artwork.

Their least favorite? Albert Reyes. It wasn’t even the black-and-white inks or psychotic Halloween maze, but the guy walking around wearing his name tag and scary mask. The girls really wanted to leave the show after seeing him (and the person with the TV set over his head) but stayed only because food was about to be served. For the record, I’m an Albert fan and am going to return to the show without little girls so I can check out his latest works.

Of course, Eloise loves artist Saelee Oh (as well as her gigantic mural) and artist/fellow GR mag alum Kiyoshi Nakazawa (and his daughters). They helped the girls make it to Mark’s short and fun set, which began with a tweaked take on Star Spangled Banner inspired by the Endeavor piggy-backing over SoCal and vocals from a yellow stuffed animal before settling into more serious, soulful takes on favorites like “Summer Blue” and “Sneaky People.”

It was super rad, and I ran into my pal and longtime GR photog Ben Clark right around then, too. That meant it was a real rock show. (Ben has shot a ton of bands for the mag, including Carsick Cars, Ponytail, DragonForce, Carbon Silicon, Abe Vigoda, PK14…)

Wendy always tries to get me to leave a little bit early because she knows that it usually takes forever for me to get out the door. In this case, we ran into Bay Area artists Deth P. Sun and Marci Washington on the way out.

Outside, there were more friends! Oni Motor Works‘ Len Higa, Shizu Saldamando, who I had recently seen at CAMLA’s De-Constructing Chinatown opening, and even more. There should be a lot of extra pictures here (Dave Choe, Rob Sato, Ako Castuera, Edwin Ushiro, Clement Hanami, Ayako Fujitani, Cate Park, Julia Huang…) but I’ve got to save some fresh faces for the closing party post when the show ends in January. See you then, if not beforehand!