What We've Learned From 11 Years of Post-It Art at Giant Robot

What We've Learned From 11 Years of Post-It Art at Giant Robot (3)
Courtesy of Giant Robot.

At the GR2 Gallery on Sawtelle Boulevard, you'll find walls full of Post-it notes displayed in multiple rows. No, it’s not a transitional period between shows — it is the show.

The gallery is part of the Giant Robot family, which also consists of a magazine that publishes articles on Asian-American pop culture and a store that carries everything from comics to novelty plush toys.

At the gallery, visitors can see rotating exhibitions but also browse through prints, art books and more. The gallery recently unveiled its “Post-it Show 11,” a collection of small works made on — you guessed it — everyday Post-it notes. Originally conceived by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson, the show is now in its 11th year and has become a tradition for both the gallery and the artists involved. 

We talked to owner Eric Nakamura about what he has learned from more than 10 years of Post-it art shows.

Just because it’s a Post-it doesn’t mean the work is lower quality.

As the roster of artists in the Post-it shows continues to grow, the quality keeps improving. Besides Nakamura and team’s curation skills — the gallery keeps  more submissions each year — the shows include  stronger pieces because the artists keep challenging themselves.

“There’s a lot of artists that will do a full painting on a Post-it on,” Nakamura says. “They’ll really treat it like it’s a canvas. I’m like, wow, you actually did an entire painting. That happens a lot. I’m always amazed that artists take it that seriously.”

It’s hard not to raise the bar when surrounded by artists who know their craft. The show includes artists from a range of backgrounds, but art fans will recognize names including Matt Groening, Luke Chueh and Audrey Kawasaki. These aren’t your ordinary sticky notes.  

No one is too old or young for Post-it art.

“I’ve seen a little kid buying art,” Nakamura says. “I think there’s a 9-year-old that spent his own money to buy a Post-it.”

And not just any Post-it, either. According to the young collector’s parents, the 9-year-old took the decision seriously and picked a piece after careful deliberation. Amidst the many people who flock to the gallery to wait in line and pick a piece, Nakamura was most struck by this young art appreciator — and others like him who have visited the gallery.

“I think that’s really cool, because it could have easily been a baseball card of a Pokemon card, but they chose art,” Nakamura says.

A family and its purchases
A family and its purchases
Courtesy of Giant Robot

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Post-its can make art even more accessible to people.

Intimidated by the echoing sound of a cavernous gallery with white walls and shocking price tags? GR2 Gallery definitely creates a more casual environment, and this comes through especially well in the Post-it art shows. The pieces in this exhibition have no frames, no hefty price (they are $25 each) and no affectation. They are impressive works of art but they are not just for ardent art lovers.   

“People that don’t really know art can get into it really easily,” Nakamura says. “Our space has been built around promoting art and getting people into it who haven’t bought art before.”

For Nakamura, it’s “all about the fun” and about showcasing a community of artists that can transform something ordinary into something complex and worthy of hanging on your wall.     

The real work comes after the show.

Curating such unique works can be a challenge — especially when the artist roster keeps growing. But to Nakamura, that becomes the fun part as well. What he finds more challenging: the accounting part of it. Having so many pieces in one place creates more transactions than your standard gallery show.

“The hard part for me is the bookkeeping of it all,” Nakamura says. “That’s the part that’s really difficult.”

With thousands of works to keep track of, the gallery must kick into high gear to make sure everything is accounted for. But the employees try to accommodate everyone not only in physical sales but also online ones. Art enthusiasts can actually purchase Post-its online through a system that takes into account the demand for the pieces. Visitors simply enter five to 10 choices of artists and employees choose the best ones to send out.

So it turns out Post-its are useful for something besides pranking co-workers and fostering a false sense of organization. Take note, creatives: Anything can be a good material for making art if you really commit to it.

Post-it Show 11 is up through Sun., Dec. 13. A second batch of new work will be on display this Sat., Dec. 12, at noon. GR2 Gallery, 2062 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 445-9276, giantrobot.com/pages/giant-robot-store-and-gr2-gallery.

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