Gajin Fujita, Graffiti Artist

Quetzal flores interviewed local Japanese-American graffiti artist Gajin Fujita in his Echo Park home studio in 2017. 

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Derived from ACTA’s cultural treasures asset mapping initiative in, Quetzal Flores interviews LA-based graffiti artist Gajin Fujita, who grew up in East Los Angeles. During their conversation, Fujita shares intimate details of his family's history and core memories of his upbringing in a Japanese immigrant household. As their conversation unfolds, we learn how the trauma inflicted by the United States during WWII impacted Japanese-American families and rippled across generations, as well as how the communities, culture, and identity of Boyle Heights shaped his artistic practice while growing up in Los Angeles.

Gajin Fujita (b. 1972) creates work that embodies the cultural and class contradictions at the precipice of urban Los Angeles. His style blends Eastern techniques (anime, partitioned screens, ukiyo-e), and elements (geishas, warriors, demons), with Western, urban imagery (Latino graffiti, U.S. pop culture imagery) in a way that is stunning and vibrant, yet harmonious-- constantly exploring how artistic traditions are both maintained and altered as they move across stylistic and national borders.He is a member of LA graffiti crews K2S (Kill 2 Succeed) and KGB (Kids Gone Bad). Fujita's work has been widely exhibited at galleries and museums such as Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City), L.A. Louver Gallery and several international venues in Switzerland, Greece, Australia and Belgium. He is represented by L.A. Louver in Venice, CA.

ACTA · Sounds of CA - Boyle Heights
What inspires your art style?
“My paintings got many inspirations, but a key inspiration is where I grew up – which is Boyle Heights…it has a great deal of influence from the streets of Boyle Heights. Always looking at the "placasos" and the gang and cholo writing, I took that all in. There was no way of escaping it because the placasos would be painted on the front of my mom’s walls. It was inevitable that I learned these codes and territorial mark-making”
What sparked your interest in art?
“[my dad] had his studio in the house…I was always curious about his oil paint. He’d have hundreds of oil paint tubes on the floor in his room, and many colors. The colors were so attractive, I almost felt like tasting and wanting to eat them because they looked like candy. I remember he loved listening to Pink Floyd at three or four in the morning and the smell of thinner and turpentine.”