Usugrow/ Unknown

Japan 1974

Calligraphy, Murals, Drawing

www.usugrow.com

Usugrow
Unknown
Male
Japan
1974

A single piece of artistic work can be perceived as literal opposites of the spectrum – where one viewer may see a symbol of death, another may see a new beginning, a symbol of birth and life. There is a lot of duality in this regard, and although the spectrum is literally endless in volume, the Japanese artist Usugrow takes it head on and portrays some of its elements in his work – life and death, black and white, visual and audio. With the skull being a repeating motif able to encompass these oppositions, he draws it, along with other subjects, with great attention to details reminding of a tattoo artist.

Usugrow portrays dualities of life and death, black and white…

Usugrow
Usugrow – Hasadhu – Hasumi (detail), 2015

The Cover of the 90s

The delicate oppositions in his works didn’t quite start as such, per se. During the early 1990s, the artist known as Usugrow began his artistic practice by making flyers, and when he would draw a skull it was, as he states, “Because it looked cool.” Although a few things have changed since back then, his expression still contains the same motifs: a skull, a flower, and the black and white portrayal of it. He loves drawing the skull and he thinks it holds a lot of meaning; the motif fits his philosophy well, and luckily for him, its depiction was a welcomed sight in the punk rock music business of the 1990s. Usugrow drew a number of designs for various album covers (which he still does) and even widened his field of work to skateboard companies and fashion brands.

Usugrow drew a number of designs for various album covers

Usugrow artwork upper playground 2013 store news shinganist video design
Left: Usugrow – Beautiful Thorns, 2007 / Right: Usugrow – BD Justice, 2011

Opposing Ends of the Spectrum

Usugrow makes his drawings with an incredible attention to detail, using very thin pens in order to emphasize the fine structure of certain parts. With his work being of high quality and sought after, the drawings he would make became a product of their own and he produces them as such today. The skull remaining the central figure, he’s drastically changed the way he sees it, embracing the duality of nature in his practice. Originally, the skull represents death and anyone seeing it would easily make the same assumption, but Usugrow looks at it as only a part of the whole, reminding that there was life before it came to death. More so, other dualities permeate his work: the black and white portrayal, the loose-hand depictions and letters, even his mantra “Ask the Moon, ask the Sun,” brings together certain opposites.

“For me, colors such as red, green, and blue are considered as noise”

Noise of Colors

Speaking of how focused he is on the details when he works, Usugrow describes the “noise” that colors like red, blue, and green make, surrounding himself with black in order to remove these distractions. Working on a black table with nothing but a black-colored pen and a white sheet, his undivided attention belongs to the drawing, instilling it with carefully placed details and character. Another element that adds to the personality of the piece and makes it instantly attributable to Usugrow is the unique calligraphy that he’s developed. Naming it Cosmopolitan, Usugrow has merged Chinese characters and other alphabets, adding a spiritual aspect to the composition of his artwork.

Usugrow has merged Chinese characters and other alphabets to create his own calligraphy

Usugrow artwork upper playground 2013 store news shinganist video design
Usugrow – Wawoseou, 2015

Reconciling Light and Dark

Remarkably talented, Usugrow manages to bring together the eternally conflicting light and dark, life and death, with such detail that makes the transition between the two seamless. Maintaining his balance, Usugrow sometimes leaves the stability of his desk and performs live painting, believing that both are equally important. By portraying all of these opposites in his creations, Usugrow’s work proves that the different polarities can exist together, making truly remarkable art in the process.

The artist is represented by Backwoods Gallery.

Usugrow lives and works in Tokyo.

Featured image: Usugrow. Photo credits penslingers.com. All other photos credit usugrow.com.
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015POW!WOW! TOKYOTENNOZ ISLE Bond st, Tokyo JapanGroup
2015MONOCHROMEHHH GALLERY, Tokyo JapanGroup
2015USUGROW SOLO EXHIBITIONWOOLLOOMOOLOO EXHIBIT, Taipei TaiwanSolo
2015ORGANIC CONTRAST - Artworks of UsugrowDIESEL ART GALLERY, Tokyo JapanSolo
2014INKFLOWFIFTY24SF, San Francisco USSolo
2013VII GROUP SHOWSTOLENSPACE GALLERY, London UKGroup
2012INK MOON
STOLEN SPACE GALLERY, London, UKSolo
2012AZMA

FIFTY24MX, Mexico city MexicoGroup
2012OBEY YOUR MASTER Art tribute to METALLICA
EXHIBIT A GALLERY, Los Angels USGroup
2011ORIENTAL ELEMENTS
BACKWOODS GALLERY, Melbourne AustraliaGroup
2011NIXON ART MOSH TOKYO
BATSU GALLERY, Tokyo JapanGroup
2010DAY OF INK
FIFTY24MX, Mexico city MexicoSolo
2010HASADHU IN THE NIGHT BEFORE A STORM
STOLEN SPACE GALLERY, London, UKSolo
2010SHINGANIST SHOWCASE 3THC, Tokyo JapanGroup
2010THE HUNDREADS x GARFIEL
The Hundreds x Garfield Pop-Up Shop, Los Angeles USGroup
2010NEVER JUDGE...?STOLEN SPACE GALLERY, London UKGroup
2010FACES&LACES 2010
Moscow RussiaGroup
2010LTRHDS Letterheads 2010
1000 £ Bend, Melbourne Australia,
Red Bull Gallery, Sydney Australia
Group
2009SHINGANIST SHOWCASE 2STOLEN SPACE GALLERY, London UKGroup
2009SHINGANIST SHOWCASE 1FIFTY24SF, San Francisco US
Group
2009CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
TIMEOUT Cafe&Diner, Tokyo JapanGroup
2009CELERITAS
SURU, Los Angeles USGroup
2008BEHIND THE BLACK, BEHIND THE WHITE
FIFTY24PDX Portland, USSolo
2008THE VADER PROJECT TOKYO
Makuhari Messe, Tokyo JapanGroup
2008SCION INSTALLATION ART TOUR 2008USGroup
2008HIP TO HELP benefit show
WHITEWALLS SF GALLERY, San Francisco USGroup
2007LEARN A LIGHT BY DEFINING A SHADOW
FIFTY24SF, San Francisco USSolo
2007THE BEAST WITHIN
SHOWROOM NYC, New York USGroup
2007REFILL7 TOKYO
TOWER RECORDS SHIBUYA, Tokyo JapanGroup
2007CHAZ BOJORQUEZ Art show Osaka
Chaz x Usugrow Live paint show
THREETIDES TATTOO, Osaka JapanGroup
2007MIKE GIANT x USUGROW
WHITEWALLS SF GALLERY, San Francisco USGroup
2006THE PREVIEWBROOKLYN PROJECTS, Los Angeles USSolo
2006REFILL SEVEN
MTV Gallery, Sydney AustraliaGroup
2005ORGANIC CONTRAST
BK GALLERY, Sendai Japan
Solo
2002PUSHEAD Presents SKELETAL CARNIVAL 2"Tokyo, Osaka, JapanGroup
1999PUSHEAD Presents SKELETAL CARNIVAL 1Tokyo, Osaka, JapanGroup