From Basement to Godzilla: Portfolio from Godzilla: Asian American Art Network

This limited-edition print portfolio was produced by Godzilla: Asian American Art Network in 1999 and features 46 signed works by 48 artists. The portfolio was designed to complement the collective’s installation “From Basement to Godzilla,” as part of the Urban Encounters exhibition at the New Museum, in which Godzilla paid tribute to Basement Workshop, a grassroots artist-activist group founded in 1970 and one of the formative predecessors to Godzilla. The portfolio is modelled after Basement Workshop’s legendary Yellow Pearl, a boxed collection of graphics, poetry, song lyrics, and photographs published in 1972.

Housed in an archival box and hand stamped with the logos for Yellow Pearl and Godzilla, From Basement to Godzilla was originally printed in an edition of 250. However only half were assembled and distributed at the time. In 2022, Primary Information partnered with members of Godzilla to complete the assembly of the edition and provide 100 copies for sale.

The portfolio is comprised of members of Godzilla and Basement Workshop and includes works by Diyan Achjadi/Cheri Gandy, John Allen, Tomie Arai, Todd Ayoung, Keiko Bonk, Emily Cheng, Fay Chiang/Xian Chiang-Waren, Janice Chiang, Jean Chiang, Alex Chin, Ken Chu, Allan de Souza, Ming Fay, Great Leap, Skowmon Hastanan, Arlan Huang/Fay Chiang, Jason Kao Hwang, Michi Itami, William Jung, Byron Kim, Franky Kong/Jenni Kim, Nina Kuo, Bing Lee, Colin Lee, Corky Lee, Cynthia Lee, Lanie Lee, Robert Lee, Sally Leung, Franky Liu, Stefani Mar, Fay Chew Matsuda, Yong Soon Min, Philip Tajitsu Nash, Helen Oji, Athena Robles, Carol Sun, Kim Tran, Audrey E. Wong, Maureen Wong, Virgil Wong, Theodora Yoshikami, Mimi Young, Charles Yuen, Susan L. Yung, Zhang Hongtu.

The collective known as Godzilla: Asian American Art Network was formed in 1990 to support the production of critical discourse around Asian American art and increase the visibility of Asian American artists, curators, and writers, who were negotiating a historically exclusionary society and art world. Founded by Ken Chu, Bing Lee, and Margo Machida, Godzilla produced exhibitions, publications, and community collaborations that sought to stimulate social change through art and advocacy. For more than a decade, the diasporic group, having grown from a local organization into a nationwide network, confronted institutional racism, Western imperialism, anti-Asian violence, the AIDS crisis, and representations of Asian sexuality and gender, among other urgent issues.

The Basement Workshop was a grassroots and activist arts collective founded in downtown New York in 1970, and is considered one of the first pan-Asian political and arts organizations on the East Coast. Active from 1971 to 1986, Basement Workshop published art and creative writing in Bridge Magazine (1971–78), produced the Yellow Pearl visual arts portfolio, held workshops and youth programs, supported community-based healthcare, and compiled resources and information on API history and communities. Its members later went on to found many organizations, including the Asian American Arts Alliance, Asian American Arts Centre, the Museum of Chinese in America, Asian CineVision, Asian American Dance Theatre, and Godzilla: Asian American Art Network.

This title is included in “Holding Space: A Shortlist Exploring the Complexity of Asian American Identity”. Publications that address the complexities of the Asian American and Asian diasporic experience in the field of contemporary art are few and far between. As an organization based in the U.S. and serving a diasporic Asian community, we have experienced firsthand both the desire for knowledge in this space as well as the frustration due to its paucity. “​​Holding Space” is a shortlist composed of a selection of publications housed at our reading room that begins to redress this scarcity. This list is by no means exhaustive; rather, it represents the start of a continued commitment to fill this gap.