Giant Robot’s 20-year journey from a zine to the gallery and vibrant creative community it is today, parallels founder Eric Nakamura’s evolution as an enthusiastic fan, passionate collector, and energetic cultural instigator. Through many changes, Giant Robot (GR) remains a platform to explore the intersection of contemporary art and the ever-evolving relationship between West Coast popular culture and Asia. The complexity of this universe is furthered by a diversity of contributors and a continuously re-imagined framework that expands beyond the printed word or a physical space.
The Oakland Museum of California’s exhibition SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot explores a community of artists within the larger context of the GR past and present. Inspired by the Giant Robot Biennial at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, SuperAwesome developed out of a close collaboration between Eric and museum staff. The resulting show brings together site-specific murals, installations, and a variety of artworks alongside ephemera, original cover art, independent video games, and more. Woven throughout the exhibition is a sense of how GR celebrates Asian and Asian American cultural identity with playful irreverence. The voices of the artists highlighted in the show add their own perspective, further complicating the story and enriching the experience.
Associate Curator of Art and Material Culture
The journey of curating a “retrospective” exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California begins at the early stages of Giant Robot magazine. In 1994, the first issues weren't put together with computers in an arty loft-office. It was done collage style with text, scissors, images, and glue sticks on the floor of my bedroom. It was a pure act of creating something out of nearly nothing. The original master pages look battle worn, but when copied, folded, and stapled, they opened a portal to Asian pop culture.
When I flip through the earliest issues, I could see the energy that went into each word. With co-editor and long time collaborator Martin Wong, each page was an adventure to ideas and worlds unexplored. It was travel, food, film, toys, and more but from a filter of an unabashed fan. The enthusiasm within the pages grew an audience who also consumed other zines and indie comics. It also grew my interest in art.