Glenn Kaino: Aki’s Market is inspired by Akira and Sachiye Shiraishi’s small neighborhood market (1957–1970) in East Los Angeles. Created by artist Glenn Akira Kaino (Akira’s grandson and namesake), the exhibition explores the transgenerational trauma from the World War II Japanese American incarceration experience through the stories of Kaino, his family, and the community. It is also an interrogation of the American practice of displacement—collapsing almost 100 years of cultural subjugation into a spiritual, exploratory space from which the building blocks of peace might be discovered.
The exhibition draws from the life of Kaino’s grandfather, Akira Shiraishi, a legendary high school football player who was unable to realize his dreams of attending Occidental College when he was incarcerated at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming. Upon returning to East LA after the war, he and Sachiye dedicated their lives to building their market on the corner of Blanchard Street and Geraghty Avenue—a multicultural anchor that served the Japanese and Hispanic communities.
Kaino only knew his grandfather through family stories. To recreate the market, he pulled from his artistic toolkit and used his skill of unlocking past memories through layered conversations (as in his work with historical figures like Olympian, Tommie Smith). He used this methodology to draw out family memories and paint a full picture of the place they called “The Store.”
Through a virtual reality recreation of the store and an installation of related works, Glenn Kaino: Aki’s Market is an exhibition about collective memory where the archival bleeds into the imaginary and where the most advanced technology serves the most personal past.