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Shinganist: Life & Death in the eyes of Usugrow

By Krys Simon, Photos by Patrick Kawaharafeatures
May 21, 2009 - 8:19 PM











In a country that has experienced a history of crazy ridiculous militarism, the decline of traditional culture and the domination of the tech and fashion industries, one of the preoccupying themes of Japan's art and culture in this century that I’ve noticed is the question of what it means to be Japanese. It’s interesting to see the traditional aspects of Japanese society and the contemporary aspects and how they happen simultaneously. It’s not a contradiction to see a Harajuku girl in a Queen Elizabeth/Pocahontas get-up strollin’ through a Zen Buddhist garden landscape or homeboy decked out in the latest Atmos Reeboks and Diesel jeans go to a temple to pray, and then go back into the city to continue his daily grind.

In Usugrow’s latest curated group show SHINGANIST, hosted at Fifty24SF Gallery, artists Mozyskey, Toshikazu Nozaka, Bene, Jun Kaneko and the curator himself continue to emphasize the nature of blending the traditional and the non-traditional and their inspiration toward “imported culture” (music such as punk rock and hip-hop, skateboard, graffiti and tattoo).

Group curator and fellow artist, Usugrow’s foundation of creating punk rock flyers and designing his own shirts has led him to major collaborations with Vans, Famous Stars and Straps and Upper Playground, just to name a few. “He skillfully and beautifully portrays opposing elements including delicate line and unique lettering style, skull and flower, black and white, yin and yang in a picture. He believes that this is everyday life and living proof because these opposing elements can exist together,” reads his bio.

I got a chance to merge heads with him in between book signings...

Oh Dang!: Welcome to the bay, is SF treating you well this time around?

Usugrow: Thank you! I visit San Francisco all the time. White Walls and Upper Playground have always supported me; I have a great team here.

OD!: What kind of response is the group getting so far from the American audience?

Usugrow: It has been very good. I spoke with a guest a moment ago who traveled from New York to see this show. I was very impressed!

OD!: Watching you sign books and walls, you write faster than a tagger in the night yet you still manage to keep your delicate and detailed signature design. Can you tell me a little bit on how you developed this process?

Usugrow: I begin with initial movements and natural reaction when I work. I like freehand work. But the final design is always premeditated and planned from my initial work. I draw everyday so it is so natural for me.

OD!: I also noticed a reoccurring theme of skulls and roses and such. These symbols are commonly found in Latino art. Are you inspired from that movement?

Usugrow: No, not really. Everyone has a skull and people see it as a symbol of death. And the rose is a symbol of life. I want to express the cycle of living in my body of work and how natural it is for life and death to be so close together. It is a very common Japanese outlook toward life.

OD!: It’s interesting how this perception of life and death is commonly shared in different countries, even in cultures disconnected from the world and throughout history. Places in Asia and Latin America celebrate the importance of death just as hard as someone’s birthday party.

Usugrow: Yes, that is very true.

OD!: But in the West, it’s a very different story. I think we’re still trying to figure out the elixir of life or something.

Usugrow: Haha, yeah, well that is true for us all. But I hope my artwork will tell the audience what is really going to happen in the end and that it is okay.

OD!: Thanks for the reminder, man.

The Shinganist exhibit will be at the Fifty24SF Gallery from May 7th to the 28th. Y’all seriously need to get in on this pronto.

********

********

Krys Simon is cupcakin' under the summer sun.

In this blur of a society, Patrick Kawahara strives to capture more than just an image, but to document a rare glimpse of clarity from the grind we call our day to day. See more of his work at www.patrickkawahara.com



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I {{was|was actually} moved|{was|was actually} excited} enough to {drop|{leave|drop|{write|create}}|post} a {thought|{comment|{comment|leave a response}a response}} {:-P|:)|;)|;-)|:-)} I {do have|actually do have} {{some|a few} questions|a couple of questions|2 questions} for you {if you {don't|do not|usually do not|tend not to} mind|if it's {allright|okay}}. {Is it|Could it be} {just|only|simply} me or {do|does it {seem|appear|give the impression|look|look as if|look like} like} {some|a few} of {the|these} {comments|responses|remarks} {look|appear|come across} {like they are|as if they are|like} {coming from|written by|left by} brain dead {people|visitors|folks|individuals}? :-P And, if you are {posting|writing} {on|at} {other|additional} {sites|social sites|online sites|online social sites|places}, {I'd|I would} like to {follow|keep up with} {you|{anything|everything} {new|fresh} you have to post}. {Could|Would} you {list|make a list} {all|every one|the complete urls} of {your|all your} {social|communal|community|public|shared} {pages|sites} like your {twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile|linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed|Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile}?| {Hi there|Hello}, I enjoy reading {all of|through} your {article|post|article post}. I {like|wanted} to write a little comment to support you.| I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}'s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all the time} along with a {cup|mug} of coffee.| I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time} emailed this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site} post page to all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for the reason that} if like to read it {then|after that|next|afterward} my {friends|links|contacts} will too.| My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform. 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Cheers!| {I am|I'm} curious to find out what blog {system|platform} {you have been|you happen to be|you are|you're} {working with|utilizing|using}? I'm {experiencing|having} some {minor|small} security {problems|issues} with my latest {site|website|blog} and {I would|I'd} like to find something more {safe|risk-free|safeguarded|secure}. Do you have any {solutions|suggestions|recommendations}?| {I am|I'm} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing skills {and also|as well as} with the layout on your {blog|weblog}. Is this a paid theme or did you {customize|modify} it yourself? {Either way|Anyway} keep up the {nice|excellent} quality writing, {it's|it is} rare to see a {nice|great} blog like this one {these days|nowadays|today}.| {I am|I'm} {extremely|really} {inspired|impressed} {with your|together with your|along with your} writing {talents|skills|abilities} {and also|as {smartly|well|neatly} as} with the {layout|format|structure} {for your|on your|in your|to your} {blog|weblog}. {Is this|Is that this} a paid {subject|topic|subject matter|theme} or did you {customize|modify} it {yourself|your self}? {Either way|Anyway} {stay|keep} up the {nice|excellent} {quality|high quality} writing, {it's|it is} {rare|uncommon} {to peer|to see|to look} a {nice|great} {blog|weblog} like this one {these days|nowadays|today}..| {Hi|Hello}, Neat post. {There is|There's} {a problem|an issue} {with your|together with your|along with your} {site|web site|website} in {internet|web} explorer, {may|might|could|would} {check|test} this? 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