Alan Nakagawa: The Invisible Tea House


The Invisible Tea House, #invisbleteahouse; Alan Nakagawa will spend one year as the artist-in-resident at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple with a focus on the Japanese Tea House that once was there but is now at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. With support from local arts organizations Side Street Projects and the Pasadena Art Alliance, Nakagawa will weave an inter-disciplinary portrait of history, ethnic-identity and community.

What was this tea house that once was installed on the property of the Pasadena Buddhist Temple? Who donated it? What is the tea ceremony? How did it move to the Huntington Library?

Nakagawa is an inter-disciplinary artist who began his research into the tea house history in March 2019. A work in progress, The Invisible Tea House is an attempt to collectively uncover the unique history of this cultural gem. Donated in 1964, the tea house was a gift from the Headmaster of the Urasenke Chanoyu Foundation. In 2011, it re-opened in the Japanese Garden at the Huntington. In between these key points in history lies the personal stories of a Japanese-American community. Invisible Tea House is Nakagawa’s attempt to understand the nuance of these experiences and in time create an art work where the tea house once stood at the Temple.

We launch this initiative at the 2019 OBON with the following presentations: Pasadena OBON July 20; 21 will consist of:

a. REQUEST FOR TEA HOUSE PHOTOS; Temple members and the greater community might have photos pertaining to the history of the tea house. A call will be advertised for images and a campaign to collect pictures will be launched at the 2019 OBON. Side Street Project staff will be at hand to digitize these images for the Temples archive. They will supply the computer, scanners and staff. This way, members can keep their original photographs.

b. Tea Ceremony: In the past, the late Sakahara Sensei would give tea ceremony demonstrations at the OBON. This has not happened for some time now. We would like to ask Jose Salcedo, who has continued Sakahara Sensei’s practice, to resurrect this tradition at this year’s OBON.

c. Ninomiya Pop Up: Paralleling the Invisible Tea House project is another art project by Nakagawa at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. He has spent a year researching the archives of the Ninomiya Photo Studio, once located in Little Tokyo. This 100,000-image archive is preserved in the Gerth Archives Special Collections at CSUDH. An exhibition of Nakagawa’s art responses is on display at the University gallery till mid-September 2019 and a POP UP related to the exhibition will be on display at the 2019 OBON. The Ninomiya POP UP is a make-believe photo studio made up of a large format camera, back drop and information on the historic studio. Participants are encouraged to take a selfie. If they post it with the hashtag, they will receive a limited-edition zine from the exhibition. Deema Aljibeh, CSUDH, will be soliciting CSUDH staff and students to volunteer for the two-day OBON for the Ninomiya Pop Up.



Alan Nakagawa is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working with sound, occasionally incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, paint, performance, text, food and most recently perfumes.

Since 2014, he has been working on a semi-autobiographic sound-based environment, utilizing multi-point audio field recordings of historic interiors; Peace Resonance; Hiroshima/Wendover combines recordings of the Hiroshima Atomic Dome (Hiroshima, Japan) and Wendover Hangar (Utah); Conical Sound; Antoni Gaudi and Simon Rodia combines recordings of Watts Towers (Los Angeles) and the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain).

From May to September 2019, he will have a solo exhibition titled “UNFINISHED PROOF NINOMIYA” at the CalState Dominguez Hills Art Gallery, Carson CA.

From March 2018 to now, Nakagawa has been the Artist in Resident at CalState University Dominguez Hills through Praxis Art focusing on the Ninomiya Photo Archive. This exhibition is the culmination of a year long research into this unique and historical photo archive.

He is the host of VISITINGS Radio Show which is periodically featured on OPTICAL TRACKS/ Echo Park Film Center on DUBLAB radio. VISITINGS Radio Show is an interview of artists who practice outside of the museum and gallery environment. The entire series is available on iTunes and SoundCloud.

He is currently working on a multi-disciplinary/ book project about his trajectory to the variety of artist in residence opportunities he’s recently had the privilege of receiving. This project is a collaboration with WritLarge Press and is tentatively scheduled to be published in 2021.

Nakagawa co-founded the now defunct non-profit arts collective Collage Ensemble Inc. (1984-2011) and was the curator of Ear Meal Webcast (2010-2016).

Nakagawa is a recipient of two Art Matters grants, City of Los Angeles Artist Fellowship, California Community Foundation Mid-Career Artist Fellowship and a Monbusho Scholar.

He was the first artist in resident for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Library. Nakagawa was invited by the Smithsonian Museum of American History to research the development of the hearing aid in the US. He currently resides in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and continues to exhibit and develop his creative practice.

Listen to Alan’s radio show VISITINGS below!