Penn State alumnus’ artist network keeps the arts alive during pandemic

Art installation by Alex Paik
Penn State College of Arts and Architecture alumnus Alex Paik is using his passion for art to help give a voice to artists across the country—even during the pandemic. Paik, who graduated with honors in 2003 with a B.F.A. in art and minor in art history, is the founder of Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Tiger Strikes Asteroid is a 501c3 non-profit network of independently operated artist-run exhibition spaces located in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and South Carolina. Their goal as an organization is to bring people together, expand connections and create community through art. Paik, who has exhibited in art fairs and galleries nationally and internationally, was inspired to launch Tiger Strikes Asteroid when he realized there were not enough art shows in Philadelphia that interested him. He wanted to find a way to open up the community and showcase the talents of more artists. That journey began in 2009 –and 11 years later the network is still developing and showcasing various artists. “It feels like that initial seed is still there—we continue to produce projects and exhibitions for underrepresented artists and are intentionally trying to move outside of our immediate circles when working with artists in order to expand our community,” said Paik. He expressed that with the ongoing pandemic and injustice happening across the world, it is critical now more than ever to bring together communities and think intentionally and thoughtfully about who Tiger Strikes Asteroid is showcasing. Due to the pandemic, Tiger Strikes Asteroid has taken a different approach to keeping art and connections thriving. The network of artists created a series of printable shows, to which people can donate any amount of money and receive a PDF file of the art images they are interested in. When it comes to his personal life, Paik said the quarantine brought about a lot of change all at once. His family welcomed their newest daughter in March and they continue to keep their spirits alive while working from their apartment in Brooklyn, NY. “My days revolve around helping my daughter with her remote learning assignments and rotating with my wife caring for our newborn and cooking and cleaning for the family,” said Paik. “There is little time to actually work but I try to sneak in some admin time to keep TSA and Trestle Gallery going. So for now I am focused on taking care of my family and my art practice is on the back burner.” Before becoming the director at Trestle Gallery, Paik was the curator of the Satellite Art Show in Miami in 2015–18. He said one of his favorite projects was recently finished at Trestle Gallery—a collection of mini essays from various artists about the pandemic. “[The project] is a way to create a sort of snapshot of the current time, as well as a way to support these writers, many of whom saw their freelance work dry up as things shut down,” said Paik. The collection of mini essays can be found here. Paik recently had a solo project at Praxis NY in Chelsea, where he was given the opportunity to highlight some of his work. “It was so amazing getting to have their entire beautiful space and I was able to put up three large installations as well as a selection of small framed work,” said Paik. “They focus on South American artists, so I was honored to be invited to show with them because a lot of my work is influenced by the Neo-Concrete artists of South America, like Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica and GeGo, among others.” Reflecting on his time at Penn State, Paik said the entire painting faculty had a huge impact on him. He gave credit to Ann Shostrom, Helen O’Leary, John Bowman, Robert Yarber and Micaela Amato as being major influences on his career. By Carlie Fox