As a kid, Jordan Wong felt there was a stigma attached to liking anime. Despite spending countless hours of his childhood getting lost in the “infinite worlds” of anime like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Soul Eater, Wong never felt fully comfortable letting the world know about his love for the medium.
That’s all about to change as Wong’s newest exhibit, The 10,000 Things, goes live at the Akron Art Museum May 29. The outdoor exhibit incorporates themes from the anime, manga, video games and traditional Chinese paintings he enjoyed as a child.
“I was always really interested in Asian art and the ways they were able to tell stories,” Wong says. “This exhibit really focuses on that storytelling along with some philosophical musings I wanted to share.”
Wong, 31, chose the name of the exhibition based off the Taoist belief that the universe is comprised of 10,000 things, an idea he tried to explore with his exhibition.
“Recently I’ve been starting to ask myself how I can be a professional artist with these big ambitions, while also not getting too attached to the outcomes of work,” says Wong, the president of the Cleveland chapter of the AIGA Professional Association for Design.
Wong hopes his work offers viewers the opportunity to have that same contemplative experience.
“A lot of my work is also deeply rooted in themes of encouragement and perseverance and [has] kind of an overall uplifting energy to the work,” says Wong. “This exhibit kind of connects all these weird nebulous philosophies of my own that kind of float around my head.”
Composed of bold colors and lines, Wong’s art is clearly reminiscent of his childhood staples. The best example of this is his work, “Where We’re Going,” a big blue bus that appears hurdling through pink space and is surrounded by golden rings, a cartoon-style orca and clouds and phrases reminiscent of video games.
Despite so much of the exhibit focusing on fictional characters, Wong put together the exhibition with the human experience in mind.
“In anime there are always protagonists doing some incredible feat to defeat a huge monster and people are quick to dismiss whatever happens because they’re cartoons, but we do stuff like that every day,” says Wong. “We all have to face things that scare us or give us a feeling of despair.”
Along with the initial outdoor opening focusing on two-dimensional, free-standing sculptural pieces, The 10,000 Things will get a second iteration at the end of August that Wong says will be more of a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the exhibit.
“I am really excited to see what comes after this, what opportunities await and [the work I can do] with new material and partners and collaborators,” says Wong. “It ties conceptually to the spirit of the work — forever being a student of possibility.”