In Peach Boy (2016) Gajin Fujita draws his primary inspiration from Toyohara Kunichika, a Japanese woodblock print artist. Kunichika is one of Gajin’s favorite artists and is known for depicting theatre actors.
The particular woodblock print Gajin is referencing is a scene from “ami moyo toro no kiku kiri.” Gajin selected this image because the samurai has a monkey cape/hoodie and 2016 is the Chinese year of the monkey.
Peach boy is a famous tale in Japanese cartoons. In Japanese he is called Momotarou, Momo (peach) Taro (kid). He was a boy that was born out of of a big peach and was known for his heroic feats helping the less fortunate. Gajin’s palette is also based on the original print and the samurai’s clothing incorporates the Chinese character for peach, which may be found in the hexagonal design. A small and intriguing detail is the mark depicted on the inside of the Monkey’s cape (bottom left) where there is a reference to the Ben Davis gorilla logo. A small reference to L.A. sub culture, Ben Davis clothing is a line worn by gang members.
IMAGE: Gajin Fujita, Peach Boy, 2016, spray paint, mean streak, paint markers, 12k & 24k gold leaf on wood panel, 24 x 16 in. (61 x 40.6 cm)
Everyone’s doing hybrid these days but Gajin Fujita really knows how to make it pop. The California-born artist, son of Japanese parents, brings manga, graffiti, Ukiyo-e, Chicano posters, and lots more influences together in Duo (2009) and the other works in “Made in L.A.,” his solo show at L.A. Louver. One you read the painting, add Batman to the mix. Welcome to Los Angeles.
Samurai in Graffiti-Streaked Streets: Gajin Fujita’s New Paintings at L.A. Louver
Battles between samurai, ghosts, ancient gods and demons are the stuff of Japanese legend. Traditionally depicted in elegant “ukiyo-e” woodblock prints, they are rendered in spray paint against gritty, graffiti-covered backgrounds in Gajin Fujita’s new paintings on wood panels on view at L.A. Louver.
Fujita, a celebrated Los Angeles-based graffiti artist and painter, has long been inspired by the Japanese master printers of the 18th and 19th centuries. The artist is known for juxtaposing the historic and mythic content of their classic prints with the imagery of contemporary cultural trends—from hip hop to anime.
Fujita’s 13 new works are his most ambitious and complex to date—ranging in size from diminutive to muralesque—and are on view until July 2.
With Gajin Fujita: Ukiyo-e in Contemporary Painting and Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi both on view at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, we’re sharing a few images of the works that can be seen in each exhibition.
Viewing these works in counterpoint to each other, one can see how ukiyo-e, 17th-19th century Japanese woodblock prints, like those by famed Japanese artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), have influenced Gajin Fujita’s work through color palette and subject matter. However, what is also evident are the similarities between the traditional technique of ukiyo-e woodblock printinmaking and Gajin’s process of stenciling – each involves an exact layering of color to build the desired imagery. The following videos illustrate these two unique approaches:
It truly is special to have the works by Gajin Fujita and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi reside under the same roof, and would like to thank the staff at the Pacific Asia Museum for making these exhibitions possible, and for generously providing us with additional images for this post!
We hope you have the opportunity to visit the Pacific Asia Museum before these exhibitions come to an end.
Images Left to Right; Top to Bottom: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892),Kintarō Snaring a Giant Carp (Kintarō horigyo), Japan, July 1885, Woodblock print on paper, Collection of Ed Freis, Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum; Gajin Fujita, Golden Boy After Kuniyoshi, 2011, gold leaf, platinum leaf, and silver leaf with spraypaint and paint markers on wood panel, Private Collection; Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892),Gojō Bridge in the Chronicles of Yoshitsune (Gikeiki Gojōbashi no zu), Japan, 1881, Woodblock print on paper, Collection of Ed Freis, Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum; Gajin Fujita, Shore Line Duel, 2004, gold and white gold leaf, acrylic, spray paint and Mean Streak on wood panels, Private Collection.