Air Jordans, anime and the apocalypse come together in Oak Cliff exhibition
Dallas artists Brent Ozaeta, Mylan Nguyen and Taro Waggoner have been working on projects together for the better part of a decade. The artists draw inspiration from Japanese pop culture and have creatively collaborated on pop-ups and events over the last several years. The “Just an Illusion” exhibition at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center showcases the trio’s work once again.
The name for the exhibition comes from a Michael Jordan quote: “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”
The artists said they want the show to demystify the things we have in our head that can hold us back. Pieces in the show draw from their shared identity as Asian Americans and their personal interpretations of illusion and fantasy.
“The work featured varies from ceramics to painting and printmaking,” Ozaeta said. “Both Mylan and myself and Taro are kind of influenced by Japanese pop culture and our interest in anime and manga.”
Ozaeta’s favorite contribution to the collection was born right before the pandemic, in March 2020. His triptych “Wonder 2 (the ending world),” was the first of a series of similar works that he has made since in the same vein.
“It's kind of like this very apocalyptic landscape that I made. It’s probably one of my favorite works that I’ve had, and maybe even as a timely omen right before quarantine happened,” he said.
His work often features “maximalist” imagery – intricate and dense, colorful illustrations that draw from a variety of different inspirations.
The pandemic also influenced Waggoner’s work. Typically an illustrator and graphic designer, Waggoner picked up ceramics as a new medium during the pandemic. The exhibition also includes a series of ceramic representations of Air Jordans, done by Waggoner in his self-described “whimsical” and “wonky” illustration style.
Nguyen, on the other hand, drew inspiration from her Vietnamese and Mexican heritage for the exhibition.
“I'm working with ideas in Mexican folklore like nahuales and the duendes, they're kind of these magical beings. And I feel like that kind of works together with these ideas of like, some people feeling like they're real and some people thinking it's like just an illusion too,” she said.
Nguyen grew up in Dallas and said “Just an Illusion” is a particularly meaningful exhibition for her. “I'm really glad we're showing at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center because I'm from Oak Cliff, I always get really happy to show in our neighborhood.”
Just an Illusion is showing now until June 9 at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. The artists will be hosting a Risograph printing workshop on May 27 at the center.
CORRECTION, 7:30 a.m., May 18, 2023: A previous version of this story misspelled Mylan Nguyen’s first name.
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