Tokyo Hipsters Club
Closes Jan. 25
While street culture and the genres of hardcore and hip-hop form the context of the Japanese artist Usugrow, in his beautiful and meticulously crafted black-and-white works, which feature flowers, skulls, religious symbols and ornate fonts, you can clearly see the influences of old Japanese masters such as ukiyo-e (wood block print) artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi and painter Ogata Korin.
Like most of the artists in the group show at Tokyo Hipster Club, Usugrow got his start in graffiti and honed his craft in making event flyers and posters. Fifteen years ago, his choice to use a monochromatic palette was more of a practical decision rather than an aesthetic one. “Color printers and photocopiers were too expensive, but I could reproduce black-and-white flyers really cheaply,” the artist said in a recent interview. “Also with screen printing, when you use black and white it’s relatively easy. I had to work within those limitations to make something that looks cool.”
Usugrow’s works, which include designs for tattoos, album covers, skateboards and clothing, have garnered interest abroad, which has led to exhibitions at galleries in California, notably at Fifty24SF Gallery; Brooklyn Projects; and with graffiti legend Mike Giant at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco.
The “Shinganist” show (the word “shingan” means “the mind’s eye”) and its accompanying book features Usugrow’s work alongside the lettering designs of Mozyskey; Toshikazu Nozaka’s fusion of traditional Japanese art with skate/surf culture; and media by Bene and Jun Kaneko. The “Shinganist” show debuted at Fifty24SF Gallery in San Francisco, Calif., in May 2009, followed by a stint in July at Stolen Space Gallery in London’s Brick Lane.