JANM to Unveil ‘Supernatural’ at Free Opening Reception

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“The Makamakaole Gulch Man” (2011-12) by Edwin Ushiro. Mixed media on lucite. Courtesy of the artist.

As part of its continuing Salon Pop series, the Japanese American National Museum will unveil its newest exhibition, “Supernatural: The Art of Audrey Kawasaki, Edwin Ushiro, and Timothy Teruo Watters.”

The exhibition will run from Feb. 9 through March 17 with an opening reception being planned for Saturday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at JANM, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo. The reception will feature a DJ and attendance by the participating artists, and is free and open to the public.

“Zinnias and Pears” (2013) by Timothy Teruo Watters. Legacy Series. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

“JANM is thrilled to present ‘Supernatural: The Art of Audrey Kawasaki, Edwin Ushiro, and Timothy Teruo Watters,’” said Dr. Greg Kimura, president/CEO of the museum. “The exhibition features three of the most exciting artists whose work is influencing the Asian American art world and challenging the wider artistic scene.”

“Supernatural” follows the success of the museum’s recent showing of “Giant Robot Biennale 3” — an exhibition curated by Eric Nakamura, owner of the Asian American pop cultural juggernaut Giant Robot — which featured the work of eight emerging artists along with a customized vinyl figure collection.

Through these contemporary art exhibitions, JANM continues its expanding outreach to newer, diverse audiences, many of whom might not otherwise visit the museum nor be exposed to the rich history of Japanese Americans.

Traditions about the mystical are an integral part of every community, arising out of cultures as they explore shifting boundaries between the ordinary and the sublime. The three artists featured in “Supernatural” explore otherworldly concepts and show how traditional ideas have evolved.

• From the horror manga she read as a child to the greats of Art Nouveau, Los Angeles-based artist Audrey Kawasaki’s influences are readily apparent in her distinctive style that has gained her a wide following. Her wood paintings of delicate, beautiful girls caught in dreamlike worlds draw the viewer in with their simultaneously erotic and melancholy atmospheres.

These macabre beauties represent the struggle between vulnerability and inner strength that characterizes her work just as much as her precise lines and dusty colors. Despite their varied appearances, they all represent Kawasaki’s muse, the ideal yet unobtainable woman she believes to be reflected in all of her pieces.

Kawasaki’s art has shown across the world, from Outre Gallery in Australia to Roq La Rue in Seattle.

Edwin Ushiro’s work resonates with the echoes of his boyhood in the “slow town” of Wailuku on the Hawaiian island of Maui. In his paintings, he recalls the sun-struck days of youth, when the world was fresh and magical, but he also explores the eerie folklore indigenous to dark country roads and the boundless depths of the childhood imagination.

While exploring the narrative tradition of “talk story” native to the islands, he interweaves the uncanny obake tales of his Japanese heritage. Working in assemblages of semi-transparent mixed media impressed behind clear lucite, he melds his expressive drawing skills with both digital and organic painting techniques. The result is luminous and nostalgic, like a cherished memory burnished and worn fragile by the passage of time.

• Northern California native Timothy Teruo Watters has a simple philosophy — create something from nothing. His bright, detailed, and motion-filled paintings keep him emotionally satisfied and engaged, despite his struggles with insomnia and depression. He wants his vivid paintings to extend that feeling of positivity to his audience.

Best known for his stained-glass style portraits of iconic figures such as late rapper Tupac and boxer Manny Pacquiao, Watters effortlessly melds the simplicity of Impressionism with aesthetics of Eastern culture. He draws inspiration from his artist grandfather, who guided and encouraged him, as well as historical Japanese ukiyo-e paintings and contemporary street artists.

Watters has exhibited at Bang Gallery in Los Angeles and Sembramos 2 Art Show in Oakland, among others.

The Salon Pop series provides short-term opportunities for JANM to present the creative talents of Japanese and Japanese Americans whose innovative work is having an influence on American culture. The series was first launched in the fall of 2007 with “Giant Robot Biennale: 50 Issues.”

In addition to exhibitions, the Salon Pop series includes public programs and events that provide the museum with the opportunity to engage younger audiences. Through this dynamic strand of programming, JANM is able to illustrate the vitality of Asian American youth culture and its place within everyday society.

Salon Pop is made possible with support from the James Irvine Foundation, interTrend Communications, Scion, and Giant Robot.

Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $5.00 for seniors; $5 for students and children; free for museum members and children under age six. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

“Possessed” (2012) by Audrey Kawasaki. Oil, acrylic, and graphite on wood panel. Courtesy of the artist.

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