STYLE WARS IN SEOUL
1-3F, 80, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
The exhibition title was borrowed from the 1983 documentary film <Style Wars>, which took an in-depth look into the growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s.
The camera frame lingers on various aspects of hip-hop, particularly focusing on graffiti writers and artists as a narrative vehicle of introducing rap culture, DJ culture, breakdancing. As the first documentary of its kind, it had paid due respect to the roots and the flourishing culture of hip hop. When NYC’s graffiti writers started seeing others’ works around the city, competition was inspired, and everyone strived to have the coolest and freshest style. To do that, they stumped anti-graffiti enforcers and campaigns, and refused to live ordinary lives.
This November at <STYLE WARS in SEOUL> extraordinary graffiti styles connect with contemporary art, presented by Gallery Afternoon in collaboration with Katsumi Yamato Gallery. Graffiti may be rooted in the streets of dilapidated urban areas, but it has also found new ground and cultures since the late 70s.
Now, it may not even be exclusive to walls, unattended shutters, subway lines and train tracks. This group exhibition brings together Japan’s young contemporary artists who each engage the viewer with his or her own expressive visual style that pays direct homage to - or even embodies the stylistic spirit of - graffiti. In the way that the 1983 film did, we hope that this collective presentation offers insight and inspiration.
Yasuhito Yuhara @dango.2000
Keiko Migita @migiponi
Yuka Katsuki @yuka_katsuki
Kisho Kakutani @kishokakutani
Honoka Hayashi @3hono1
Ryoko Sugizaki @sugizakiryoko
Yuri Ikeguchi @yuriikeguchi
Takuma Isibe @2blks_takumaishibe
Shintaro Inoue @youthcolorline
Chizuko Ninomiya @chizuko_ninomiya
Ryosuke Misawa @ryosuke_misawa_53
Atsushi Murakami @atsushi_paintings
Born to a Japanese father and a Filipino mother in Fukushima Japan, NKSIN(b.1994) grew up frustrated by a community that did not accept his multicultural background. His own experiences have led him to examine in his own way the social discrimination issues that occur in various communities. His work focuses on this topic. Discrimination of all kinds is reflected in the protagonist, who portrays it in a provocative and humorous way, and is juxtaposed with his own experiences.
NKSIN's portraits depict craftsmen, actors, musicians, painters, and other icons who created the culture of their time. By giving them contemporary clothing and everyday fashions and placing them in the present time frame, he coexists a sense of longing for and rejection of the past and present.
The children in his works are depicted as innocent beings who are ignorant of a world overflowing with information, "I wanted them to symbolize the first time I learned something," says the artist.
Yasuhito Yuhara(b.1987), born in Chiba Japan, graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts with a major in ceramics, and completed the graduate program in art education at the same university.
Like somnolent events that play out before the backdrop of strangely familiar moments – or dreams – Yasuhito Yuhara presents iterative scenes from his memories with bears, dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, and other familiar creatures cast into the strange and uncanny.
Each creature has a particular facial expression that is hard to read, like a poker-face. And just like a dream, the hint of playful satire against contemporary society pushes the viewer’s imagination to remember, as if to capture that fleeting dream.
Keiko Migita, よく見る住人YC, Print, 79 x 69.5 cm (1/1), 2010
"I have a strange feeling for PONI's world as if it is being sent from somewhere else even though it is inside of me. It is as if the world of PONI appeals to me on its own, rather than in my imagination. PONI seems to disappear when I tries to control it, and it is a very capricious world that can not be controled by one's own emotions." - Artist notes
Born in Kumamoto, Japan, Keiko Migita (右田啓子) specialized in Printmaking at Tama Art University Graduate School in Fine Art. She uses her fictitious characters in her works called “PONI”, which is derived from the name of a stuffed animal she cherished when she was a child.
PONY became a part of her works, and it might be more accurate to say that she was being manipulated by PONI. However, she strongly wishes to stay connected to PONI, even when she is sometimes at their whims. She is focusing on the coexisting world of PONI itself, and their communication.
Toru Tohiguchi(b.1975), born in Nara Japan, graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts majoring in paintings and printings. Currently he lives and works in Tokyo.
Toru Tohiguchi's works are based on the deconstruction of existing forms such as figures, still life, and landscapes, and their reconstruction with the use of line. His works are based from silk screen prints.
At first glance, his works appear to be nothing more than a figure composed of lines. However, when you get closer, you can see the three-dimensionality of the work. Toru Tohiguchi prints a single work at least 50 times, sometimes as many as 150 times. This process gives a single line a sense of depth and three-dimensionality. It reminds us of a so-called relief.
Born in Niigata Japan, SIVELIA is currently presenting his works mainly in Tokyo.
While working as a graphic designer and based on 20 years of experience in fashion industry, SIVELIA challenges contemporary art by creating custom figures as a three-dimensional works combinded old toys and junk products.
He is creating one-of-a-kind products through customization and they arouse a sense of familiarity through characters with a sense of deja vu.
SIVELIA is strongly influenced by street art and fashion from Harajuku culture back in the time of the late-'90s. His experiences acquired through that time inspire his works.
He is not afraid of sampling, collage, and hybridization with different cultures in creating his works, and he is focusing on upgrading, combining, and changing colors and specifications based on his "favorite things (fashion, art, music, toys)" to create his own tastes. SIVELIA is pursuing his own "coolness" from subculture and minority position.
Yuka Katsuki(b.1996) is inspired and informed by sensory experiences encountered in the mundane. The ordinary sensory experiences – sight, hearing, touch - and the unexpected extraordinary serve her works as inspire and drive her works. She describes these ambient experiences as a kinesthesia, a dynamic force that attracts and compels her to artistic practice. Her works visualize this sense of movement into a dynamic sense of depth.
Yuka Katsuki’s works are largely of ink on large-scale panels. Using silk screen techniques. The stratified layers evoke an improvised rhythmical composition on screen. At other times, the layers come together in the form of familiar animation characters.
We live in a postdiluvian age, adrift in a vast sea of images, the result of the Internet and its social-things. What is another image in a sea of consumable images, shared worldwide?
Born in the 90s and raised in an age of digital progress, Kisho Kakutani has constantly struggled with a sense of uncanny valley that only sank deeper with each technological advancement and with every additional pixel crammed into the same inch of display-estate. Drawing from that sense of unsettling aberration, the artist brings to surface what is in the hyper-real images but not readily seen by the gaze.
Kakutani identifies this aberration from reality as a rift between the invisible reality and what the mind recognizes from memory. Working via acryl-on-cotton cloth media, the artist’s best known Frosted Window series or the Curtain series of works blur the landscape in a reverse-vignette manner. It invokes a sense of the uncanny and asks the viewer to draw into their own memories to paint something from memory and to build an interpretation that is native and natural to the individual.
Hin(b.1990) works in the medium of virtual spray, a description she uses for the fusion style of digital pixel and aerosol spray on canvas. The artist’s virtual spray is a buffer between the rigid digital structure of pixels in two dimensions and the volumetric aerosolization of substrate in three-dimensional space which also incorporates a significant degree of arbitrariness. She describes this hybridized approach as an antidote to information overload.
From serialized television shows to films, anime, and manga, popular visual media in Japan often portray characters getting a bloody nose when they encounter a sexual situation. Nosebleeds signify sexual arousal for men and women alike, and this use of nasal hemorrhage is idiosyncratic Japan, a tangential expression developed due to tacit taboos of sexual expression in Japanese culture.
With buggy as an assumed name, the artist collaborates across a variety of commercial brands, the upside-down figures with fuchsia nosebleeds. The figures are often pop culture icons, Greek statues, or portraits of ordinary families. The artist jestfully satirizes the taboos and contradictions of contemporary social-culture through the distorted, rubbed-out, twisted, or nose-bleeding figures.
buggy, A family portrait/3, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 80.5 cm, 2022
Honoka Hayashi cites heavy childhood influence from Americana, through decisions made by her parents. She played with toys and wore clothes like American children her age and grew up watching Disney and Sesame Street on television. She even enjoyed watching sci-fi films.
Those things of Western culture were personal and familiar to her, but it was only after she grew out of childhood that she came to understand the racial significance of all those glances of contempt and cynicism she encountered in her childhood years. This jarring rediscovery of her own childhood has been the stem in her overall artistic practice.
Hayashi's works feature masked girls. The masks hide the face, but not their wonderful sophistication. Against a composition of theatrical mise-en-scènes, she presents masked girls - similar to those seen in anime - often appearing as if they are uttering something or looking at something off-screen. The masks obscure facial features, complexions and expressions, ethnicity, and even their gender in some cases. Despite the obscurity, onlookers will exclaim “kawaii” or “adorable” to the unseeable face, as if some cognitive wires have shorted and fired at some deeper level of (sub)conscious. By masking and obscuring the essence of being, the artist prompts the onlooker’s imagination while also mooring it to second thoughts.
Born in Tokyo in 1982, Ryoko Sugizaki studied Design Informatics at Musashino Art University. She works exclusively in the medium of newspaper (and liquid glue) to create newspaper dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs are ancient creatures from prehistory. Hardly a historical record - let alone contemporary humans – remember it with any clarity. Contemporary understanding and visualizations of dinosaurs are based almost entirely on surviving fossils and other fragmented clues. In that regard, dinosaurs are like historical fiction.
Paper-print daily newspapers are a crystallization of latest information relevant to our lives, iterated daily with new information. The artist combines this latest news in contemporary information with the prehistoric information of extinct organisms as both object and material of her news papier-mâché dinosaurs.
Yuri Ikeguchi was born in 1985. Native to the Mie Prefecture in the Kansai region of Honshu, Yuri studied at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. She photographs familiar sights from the supermarket or the convenience store, home living spaces and office shelves, before cropping them into a tight frame that she reinterprets by paint.
Although the process leading up to the paint - photograph, crop, frame, and copy - elude the artist’s practice, it is the mantra-like copy, copy, copy that conjugates her artistic grammar. The recurring forms arranged within the cropped frames are always ambiguous in ways that are both curious and uncertain.
Takuma Ishibe’s fascination with the components of colors, shapes, and textures show in his works, created through iterations of "painting, printing, cutting, pasting, and peeling". Ishibe uses several unconventional methods of ink-print, including smudging and blurring the ink, or generating formulaically iterated scenes that intimate ink-print test and calibration panels.
The tension between print and paint, the contingent-openness to the ink stains and smudges come together in his works. The bold gestures of ink become spontaneous textures that inspire and elevate his works in a way that he describes as “serendipitous in surrender", most beautiful in the way that the practice of wúwéi is beautiful.
Shintaro Inoue paints simplified line figures that draw from his early exposure to calligraphy, with a trace echo of Monet’s ukiyo-e inspired pointillism. Each stroke is placed carefully and confidently, guided by his belief that one is enough to completely alter the flow of the whole.
While points remain static, lines are dynamic and capture the temporal and spatial aspects of things, such as movement, time, and even life’s various dramas. The simple and distinct colored lines portray the inner beauty of each portrayed woman with hints of their life’s stories.
Graduating college as a student of law, Chizuko Ninomiya began her career as a systems-engineer at a financial institution.
Her main interests are in regulations and results. At societal scale, that translates into laws and statues. In technology, they are preset programs. The many mathematical formulae the describe and predict the natural world, as well as the rule sets in financial engineering are all within her scope of interest.
Her work – her life’s dedication – takes the form of study and research. Her works identify as hypotheses and proof of concept. Their exhibitions are their expositions. The process and outcome are logged and analyzed, deliberated and reviewed.
She reconstructs the concept of programming languages within the context of “painting as art”, a program executed to spotlight what cannot be readily seen. Her practice also spans into the virtual sphere of twitterverse, where she has created an “online social sculpture” that scrutinizes the simultaneity of behavior.
Ryosuke Misawa was born in 1992. Native to Fukui City, he studied Film and New Media at Rikkyo University and worked as a professional photographer before committing himself fully to contemporary art in 2020.
The artist’s works hinge on updating concepts where videos and photographs are drawn into the background and abstracted as stratified, multi-perspective character portraits.
Misawa’s main mode of creation includes dismantling existing images down to digital pixels before reconstructing them as analog paint on canvas. The artist weaves freely between technology and tradition to present original works that continue to update with his practice.
Atsushi Murakami is from Fukuoka, born in 1999. He studied Art Expression at Kyushu Sangyo University’s College of Art and Design before dropping out to pursue art full-time as an artist.
Once a hopeful mangaka (comic artist), Atsushi Murakami developed a keen eye for details of dynamic movement, from the physicality of athletes in sports, to the action sequences in films and comic books.
Appreciation for musical performance or athletic pursuits seem to bypass the decision-making areas of our brain and engage immediately with our executive motor functions. For the artist, these are the most natural movements of the human body, a direct connection from perception to movement. The artist’s works feature this natural flow of movements as the primary motif, presented in comic book panels – a format that he is fond of, just like his childhood dream.