By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The main force in bringing the show to L.A. is Caro, the L.A.-based curator and manager, who stumbled upon Shibuya Girls Pop while she was scouting artists for her annual group show inspired by Japanese street fashion, "Sweet Streets." She now represents the collective in the U.S. "When I found the Girls, I was shocked and amazed by (a) how young they were and (b) how talented they are," she recalls.
Although several artists from the collective have appeared previously in L.A. shows, including "Sweet Streets" last September and "What Is Q?" at Q Pop in January, "Magical Girls" serves as the group's first Los Angeles exhibition of its own.
In some ways, though, the collective made its debut on March 19 at Japanese pop culture store JapanLA on Melrose with a fundraiser art show that they inspired. Three weeks before the opening at Meltdown, the themes of the group's work — Japanese culture, altruism and magic — became more significant when northeastern Japan was struck by a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami. Though the collective's members are scattered across Japan, many are based in Tokyo.
"Everyone [in the show] is affected differently, some more than others," says Caro.
"My grandmother lost her home during the tsunami, a place I would visit during summer vacation as a child," says Akira Ebihara, an artist from the collective, in an email. "For three days, I could do nothing but draw and cut magazine paper until I learned of her safety and the world was happy once more."
As northeastern Japan was continually rattled by aftershocks, art became not only a job but an escape. "I completed [the 'Magical Girls' pieces] during the blackouts and continuous aftershocks," Mori says. "During these terrifying and worrying days and nights, I was able to find momentary relief while I was drawing. I was so focused on drawing them, I was able to temporarily escape from the catastrophe that was happening."
"You figure creating artwork becomes less important in light of the earthquake, but when it first occurred I wanted to draw more than anything," Eimi agrees via email. "I just wanted to feel like myself again, so creating art made me feel stronger."
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Caro was working to help the Girls and make sure she could still get them and their art to L.A. for their show at Meltdown. Because of the rampant phone outages, they kept in touch through Twitter, relaying news with the help of the Twitter hashtag #prayforjapan.
Along with JapanLA owner Jamie Rivadeneira, and Michelle Nguyen and True Mee Lee of party promotion company Bubble Punch, Caro launched the #PrayForJapan fundraiser art show. In less than a week, dozens of artists and volunteers contributed to the show, which raised more than $11,000 to aid American Red Cross efforts in Japan.
In the wake of the earthquake, for party hoppers in the Japanese pop culture scene in L.A., kawaii has taken on another shade of meaning — hope for the future of Japan.
One artist, Iwashimizu, drafted her paintings before the earthquake, but the tragedy gave her new inspiration. "Originally, I would have liked to draw many children, believing in magic, things that are part of shojo and those 'once upon a time' stories," she says. "After the earthquake, I drew the magic we are truly praying for."
"Magical Girls: Art Inspired by Shojo Manga" is on view through April 22 at Meltdown, 7522 W. Sunset Blvd.
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I like the comparison you draw between kawaii / shibuya culture & pop surrealism / low brow... eeenteresting.
[listing dept. corrections & details]Upcoming Events• Showcase and Open Mic / JamEvery week Thursday SHOWCASE: and OPEN MIC / JAM: "Companion Events" (vocalists/instrumentalists)LARRY DAVIS "CD Release Party" and JAM... + (both events) Guest Host: James GERALDEN & "D'z" In-House Live Jazz Trio " 'Lady & Gentlemen' too " Karen HERNANDEZ & Tony DUMAS · Don LITTLETON "masterful" accompanist/improv-musicians DOLORES PETERSEN Presents: @ HSB&G 6122-6124 Sunset Blvd., HollywoodThurs. Apr. 7th, 7p and 8p, sign-up 7:30p (Blues, Jazz, Latin, Pop and multi-genre)