Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001

Godzilla vs. The Art World: 1990-2001 will examine the work of Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, which launched a generation of young artists and curators. It catalyzed a needed political and aesthetic conversation at a critical time in the histories of alternative arts, “multiculturalist” politics, and the shifting Asian diaspora. And it produced a body of exhibitions, collaborative projects, critical writing, and connections that reshaped the contours of American art.

 

Godzilla: Asian American Art Network was founded by curator Margo Machida and artists Bing Lee and Ken Chu in 1990 in New York, taking the name of the feared Japanese pop monster. Their goal was to “establish a dynamic forum” to “foster information exchange, mutual support, documentation, and networking among the expanding numbers of Asian American visual artists all across the United States.”

 

The founders chose not to incorporate as a not-for-profit, instead creating a roving, mostly-volunteer, flexible organization. Membership, though never formalized by dues, quickly expanded: after Godzilla’s famed open letter to the Whitney Museum, over 200 artists registered — a racially, aesthetically, and politically diverse group. The members of Godzilla gathered to show each other's work in “slide slams,” challenged institutionalized racism in the arts, wrote arts criticism, threw parties, co-organized exhibitions, debated politics, and spread the word about artist opportunities.

 

This exhibition will be the first ever to focus on the art and legacy of Godzilla: Asian American Art Network. It will include key artworks, original artifacts, historical ephemera and documentation to tell the story of this seminal group.

 

Godzilla: Asian American Art Network will also be examined within a larger narrative, from the politicized formation of Asian American identity in the '70s to the resurgence of arts collectives today. In a time when arts institutions still struggle to be inclusive, and many young artists see collectivism and organizing as inseparable from their arts practice, Godzilla offers a needed story of artists taking their fate into their own hands.

 

The exhibition will be co-curated by Herb Tam, MOCA's Curator and Director of Exhibitions, and Ryan Lee Wong, guest curator.