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KORE: How Gajin Fujita Took His Graffiti to High Art

Gajin Fujita's "Ride or Die" (Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA)
Jeff Sanico

An embattled Edo-era samurai and his stressed steed are assailed by an onslaught of piercing arrows. The look in the samurai’s eyes is calm yet driven. The ensuing chaos is represented by graffiti tags, cholo writing and fill-in throw ups. The “Twilight Zone”-like juxtaposition makes it seem like he’s bursting out of a time portal into early ’90s Los Angeles street culture. An L.A. Dodgers logo is emblazoned on his otherwise traditional helmet adorned with golden antlers.

The artist responsible for this piece, entitled “Ride or Die,” is Gajin Fujita (BFA Fine Arts '97), who created it with spray paint, paint marker, paint stick and gold leaf on 84-by-132 ½-inch wood panels.

Born and raised in East L.A.’s predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Fujita learned early on how to adapt culturally to an area known for gangs, drugs and crime. It was on his own block where the danger zone was minimal and a tight-knit community reigned supreme.

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Image: Gajin Fujita's "Ride or Die" (Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA)