Gajin Fujita, American, born 1972
Crew, 2002
Spray paint, acrylic, and gold leaf on wood
Lent by the Ulrich Museum of Art L2011.165a–f

Gajin Fujita is a graffiti artist from East Los Angeles. He is a member of LA graffiti crews K2S (Kill 2 Succeed) and KGB (Kids Gone Bad). He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Nevada and a B.F.A. from Otis College of Art and Design. Fujita combines imagery derived from Japanese woodblock prints with graffiti styles and tagging techniques.

This painting is a tribute to Fujita’s graffiti crew, picturing its members as Kabuki actors against the contemporary backdrop of a heavily tagged wall. Fujita playfully integrates other motifs that hint at his present-day interests. The black hat traditionally worn by Japanese aristocrats, seen here on the fellow in the center of the composition, bears the kangaroo insignia of the British clothier Kangol, whose fashions are popular among hip-hop groups like the Beastie Boys. Rather than a family crest, the same figure also sports the Oakland Raider’s logo, but Fujita mischievously changed the eye-patch from one eye to the other and altered “Raiders” to “Ronins.” In historical Japan, rōnin were masterless warriors whose lords had died, suffered defeat, or fallen from political favor. As a result, rōnin were disenfranchised from the military hierarchy yet unable to integrate into society at large because of their status and training. So Fujita is likening today’s subcultures, like graffiti crews, to the disaffected warriors of Japan’s Edo period.