Alan Nakagawa: Rescue(s)

Alan Nakagawa is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working with sound, occasionally incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, painting and performance. His work often explores his Japanese American heritage and the three projects on view at OCMA probe issues of cultural assimilation and the generational impact of trauma.


The installation Rescue(s) is amultimedia project that addresses Nakagawa's personal fear of the Ku Klux Klan and, more broadly, the deep-seated fear of racism that people of color grapple with in the United States. The work was inspired by a dream Nakagawa had in which he and his mother drove through a public park and came upon enormous waves consisting of thousands of hooded KKK members. Unsettled by this dream, Nakagawa sought out a Jungian dream analyst to assess its meaning. In OCMA's installation, audio documentation of the dream analysis is presented alongside Nakagawa’s watercolor drawings, which recall all the times he was confronted with KKK imagery since childhood, including imagery from movies and popular culture as well as personal experiences. The cornerstone of Rescue is a video-and-sound component that references Nakagawa’s dream and its subtext, which grapple with femininity and the cultural complexity of the Japanese American immigrant experience. Visitors are invited to sit in a vintage hairdryer that once belonged to Nakagawa’s aunt, who styled hair for her family members. The hairdryer was an important fixture in Nakagawa’s childhood environment. Together these elements allow the artist to question how fear plays a role in cultural assimilation.


Peace Resonance: Hiroshima/Wendover as a Room is part of Nakagawa’s series of semi autobiographic sound-based environments that utilize multipoint audio field recordings of interiors. For this work, Nakagawa recorded the interior acoustics of both the bustling Hiroshima Atomic Dome in present-day Japan and the Wendover Hangar in Utah, where the Enola Gay B-29 bomber plane departed in 1945 to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the work, audiences experience sound vibrations from the two historical sites as a tactile soundscape specially designed in response to the OCMA space. A film by Tom Clancey documenting Nakagawa’s process, and a wall drawing illustrating Nakagawa’s experience recording in the two historic sites, complete the work. It draws together the vastly distant locations connected through their poignant history and reminds us of the magnitude of these events and their impact following the war, particulary on Japanese immigrant experiences.


Little Saigon: Six Field Trips Generating centers around six field trips Nakagawa is organizing for the general public to join him in exploring a variety of historic points of interest in “Little Saigon” in Orange County. Starting with a photo survey of cultural-destination signage on the freeways surrounding Little Saigon, the installation will evolve over time. Following each field trip, Nakagawa will generate a product of design or documentation that reflects on the issues the field trip addressed. The following questions will guide Nakagawain this endeavor: As an outsider, what are the opportunities to learn about this community? How do outsiders visit a community they know little about? Should they visit, and why or why not? Is there a correct approach to this kind of exploration? All are invited to participate. 


Alan Nakagawa was born in 1958 in Los Angeles. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.


Peace Resonance: Hiroshima/Wendover

as a Room, 2018-2019

Interactive audio installation: sound beds,

performance, drawing,

speakers, audio equipment, single channel video 

Dimensions variable

Courtesy of the artist