Upcoming Exhibitions

Image courtesy of Odell Hussey and Nisha Sembi.

Don’t Believe the Hype: LA Asian Americans in Hip Hop

Opens May 18, 2018

Don’t Believe the Hype: LA Asian Americans in Hip HopĀ looks at hip hop in the greater Los Angeles region as a site of resistance, refuge, and reinvention for today’s Asian American communities.

Don’t Believe the Hype: LA Asian Americans in Hip Hop brings together fourteen of the most historic and important Asian Americans in the hip hop movement in Los Angeles. The museum’s galleries will be filled by site-specific murals as immersive environments by famed hip hop graffiti and mural artists including Defer, Gajin Fujita, Swank One, Shark Toof, Nisha Sembi, and Erin Yoshi. The exhibition also features paintings, photographs, audio/video installations, and historical ephemera by rapper Jason Chu, photographer Mike Park, emcee and rapper Mandeep Sethi (aka SETI X), visual artist Hueman, dancer and artist Kenny Kong, rapper Soy Sauce, DJ Rhettmatic, DJ Babu, and the Beat Junkies Institute of Sound. Visual artists Defer and Gajin Fujita will produce a site-specific collaboration.

Hip hop is a site of shared struggle between racial and cultural minorities. For many Asian Americans, hip hop offers an opportunity to resist expectations and enables artists to find stronger and more public voice. Featured artist disrupt the passive “model minority” stereotype by empowering a struggle against oppression and by undermining prejudice. Hip hop is a global movement today. It is a common field that connects groups by engaging audiences through songwriting, poetry, music, dance, street art, design, and visual culture. In this way, LA APA hip hop is an ever expanding place of empowerment through an evolving visual, sonic, and written language and culture.

To embrace active participation, the Beat Junkies Institute of Sound will install a custom-built, hands-on turn table installation as an interactive element where the public is invited to step up to the table, touch real vinyl records and practice being a DJ on the spot. This installation teaches the art of turntablism, “scratching” and “mixing” to the general audience. Additionally, artist and B-boy (break dancer artist) Kenny Kong will present an interactive dance installation in which the body of the participant triggers various elements of the sound track, turning the relationship of dance and music around. Normally one dances to the music, but here one’s dance triggers and controls the music. This is augmented by a live video projection of the dancer in the space. The projection tracks the hands and feet of the participant drawing lines as they move. These lines are projected back onto the wall in bright colors to reference the lines and colors used on graffiti writing.

From the co-curator of the show Ninochka McTaggart, “It is exciting how this exhibition explores hip hop culture as a space for connecting racial and ethnic identity, self-expression, and innovation for Asian Americans.” From the co-curator of the show Justin Hoover, “This show creates a space of community for younger Asian Americans who defy expectations. It is a place for cultural resilience where we can show the world that we embody a range of cultural practices and lifestyles.”

Public Programming Overview:

  • Opening Reception – May 18, 6:00 – 8:30 pm, with live performances by DJ Rhettmatic, DJ Babu, Jason Chu, DJ SETI X, and select members of the Beat Junkies Institute of Sound.
  • Hot Summer Nights: Hip Hop Artists and the Industry – August 23, 6:00 – 8:30 pm, with Pecha Kucha style presentations by visual artists and hip hop insiders followed by live music.

This exhibition is co-curated by Ninochka McTaggart, PhD, and the Chinese American Museum’s newly appointed curator Justin Charles Hoover. A zine on the connections of hip hop with arts, fashion, and food will be published by CAM Education staff Janelle Sangalang and Hannah Yang.

Special thanks to institutional partners including the Beat Junkies Institute of Sound, Level Up Public Relations and Management Firm representing artist Soy Sauce, Roland Wen, booking manager with Jason Chu Music, L.A. Louver Gallery representing Gajin Fujita.

Thanks to generous funding from the Eastside Arts Initiative (EAI), in partnership with LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes (LA Plaza) and the California Community Foundation (CCF) as well as the ongoing support of the Friends of the Chinese American Museum, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.