Giant Robot Store and GR2 News


Martin Hsu is friendly with an effervescent positive energy. It’s easy to just write something like that, but when you first meet him and see his eyes get genuinely wide, you’ll know it’s all true. Originally from Taiwan, Hsu lived in Southern California and went to school in Orange County. He’s nearly a 100% LA native, but his recent move to San Francisco provides a new energy into his art work. A slight hike from the Mission District, he lives in the Castro area in a Victorian home.

An impromptu visit yielded a charming house, great artwork everywhere (no, not all by him), and many “cool things”. He made me some tea and showed me his studio area where I got to see his works in progress for Undercurrents, which is beginning at Giant Robot 2 in just under two weeks.


GR: How did you get started in art?

MH: As far as I can recall, I started in art on drawing on the back of torn out calendar pages at my grandparents’ house in Taiwan in elementary school. They took care of my cousins and I when our parents were at work. Those are still the most treasured times of my life.

After graduating from CSUF with a degree in animation, I worked professionally as a character designer for a number of years before diving into the world of putting paint on wood. It’s an incredible feeling turning personal ideas into original pieces people enjoy, and I couldn’t do it without the support from my amazing friends and family.

GR: What’s your day time life like? Can you mix that with your art work?

MH: This year I’ve decided to take a break from my professional work and focus on personal art for a bit. For the first time in my life, I’m on my own working for myself and I feel extremely blessed being able to do so. My days nowadays are consisted of lots of walking around in San Francisco. When I’m not sketching or painting, I enjoy lying down on the grass at Dolores Park in between coffee shops watching and listening to people around me. It’s something quite special and I hope to do it for a while.

Some pieces from his upcoming exhibition Undercurrents


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Chinese American doing it for the US. A recent World War 2 get together took place in Chinatown NY to reflect on their battles. Did you know 20,000 were enlisted? Some assisted Flying Tigers and some trained Chinese pilots to defend against Japan.  Not much is known about the Chinese Americans in World War 2, so here’s your chance to catch up. (Huff Post – Chinese American Vets)
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You have two days to see this exhibition by Jake Lee. Who is this man? There’s a book about him and his works are amazing. Most of us are obsessed with young artists, but what about the ones that came before. Jake Lee may have passed away in 1991, but his watercolors are amazing. He’s grouped as a “California painter”. Who’d do that to the younger artists of today who are born or bred in California? Barry McGee, California Painter? It doesn’t work right. The works in this show are from a SF Bay Chinese restaurant. Sounds like some sleuthing went on to find these pieces. (CHSA – Jake Lee)   Here’s a couple of examples of Jake Lee’s work. Here’s a site to see more. (Californiawatercolor – Jake Lee)
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“Now an American citizen and a retired high school history teacher living in Aurora, Yee is one of the last men alive today to have served with Chennault and the original Flying Tigers.” John Yee’s story may be one of the most unusual American wartime stories you’ve ever heard. Originally from Kunming, China, Yee was a college student but joined the Chinese Air Force during the Japanese occupation of China in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. Due to luck and good timing, Yee eventually became a translator and flight-control specialist for Claire Lee Chennault and his legendary Flying Tigers. When the Tigers, or American Volunteer Group (AVG) as they were officially known, disbanded in July, 1942, Yee was a full member of the unit, and was awarded an official pin with the Flying Tigers’ Disney-designed logo. As WW2 progressed, Yee continued to serve as a translator, and provided stateside training to Chinese Air Force pilots. After the war, Yee feared his service to the U.S. would put his life at risk in communist-controlled China, and he applied for, and was granted, American citizenship in 1952. However, because some key documents confirming his service to the Flying Tigers have gone missing, Yee is unable to successfully apply for U.S. veteran’s status. This means he can’t collect veteran’s benefits, use VA healthcare services, or qualify for military honors upon his death. Yee, 89, has said publicly he isn’t that concerned about this situation. He and his surviving Flying Tigers compadres know what he did to serve his country. But it seems overall like just another raw deal an Asian-American is getting from a country for whom he put his life on the line. (Denver Post – Chinese-American Denied Vet Status)      
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