Remember those radical underground rags of the late 1960s? The East Village Other. The Berkeley Barb. The L.A. Free Press. Gidra. Wait… Gidra?
Wasn’t that a monster in those dumb Godzilla movies? Yes, but just because he tried to lay waste to Japan and the rest of civilization, Gidra wasn’t all bad. Which is how five UCLA students felt when they decided to name their newspaper after this ferocious, three-headed winged dragon from outer space.
The ambitions of Gidra, which published monthly from 1969 to 1974, were more modest. Its editors only wanted to destroy American imperialism abroad and racism at home among other noble – and still unresolved – causes. As the “Voice of the Asian American Movement,” it promoted pride in Japanese culture, which had not fully recovered from the legacy of World War II incarceration. And it’s currently part of Drawing the Line, a Pacific Standard Time exhibition at L.A.’s Japanese American National Museum.
Its text spreads were unexceptional: simple, straightforward blocks of columns. But what made its pages come alive were the illustrations. It was the images that communicated to Gidra‘s readers on a powerful, visceral level.
You can see a video about Gidra here, and read more about Drawing the Line, subtitled “Japanese American Art, Design, and Activism in Post-War Los Angeles,” here. But if you plan to see the show in person, you better hurry: it’s closing this Sunday.
Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are by Alan Takemoto.
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