Kami “1999” (SNOW Contemporary )

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This is the first solo exhibition in six years by Kami, an artist who has been respected by many artists and has maintained a charismatic presence in the Japanese street art scene from its early days to the present.

Kami is an artist in the unit Hitotzuki with Sasu but had been active as a solo artist before 1999 when he began working as Hitotzuki. This exhibition, “1999,” is a retrospective of the year 1999, when Kami himself was full of hope for the 2000s, and when many encounters led to the establishment of his current curvilinear style.

Kami’s strong lines, born from his upbringing in Kyoto, where traditional Japanese culture still exists, and influenced by skateboarding culture, along with Japanese elements such as “margin” and “pause,” have had a great impact on the graffiti scene, which at the time was dominated by figurative works, by introducing a unique abstract style. In contrast to graffiti, which until then had often used spray-painted alphabet letters and Western-style designs, the appearance of Kami, which combined Japanese elements with Western street culture using paint and markers, had a powerful impact on the scene at the time. Kami’s presence was at the very center of the transition from “graffiti” to “street art,” and Kami’s expression has not only influenced individual artists but has also greatly updated the Japanese graffiti/street art scene itself.

In the late 1990s, Kami participated as an early member of the Barnstormers in the U.S., which can be said to be the beginning of the mural movement that originated in the current street art scene, and from which he received hints for his current expression. Later, he and Sasu participated in the mural movement in various European countries, and in 2004, they exhibited their work in “Ill Communication II2 at the Urbis Museum of Art in the UK, where their activities as Hitotzuki began in earnest. In Japan, Hitotzuki was a key member of the alternative space “Dye-zu Experiment” (2001-2005) in Nakameguro, which led to the development of street art, and participated in “X-Color / Graffiti in Japan” (Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Center) in 2005 and “Roppongi Crossing: Is Art Possible?” (Mori Art Museum) in 2010, where their installation using skateboard sections attracted much attention.

The most distinctive features of Kami’s work is the aforementioned “lines (curves)” and unique “pauses”; the minimal lines drawn by Kami are not lines that divide the inside from the outside, but are full of an exceptional allure that differentiates the surrounding space with its light rhythm and flow, while at the same time harmonizing it. This exhibition, “1999,” will present valuable materials from this period, which can be said to be Kami’s starting point, as well as approximately 10 new canvas works that fuse the passion of the time with the expression of the present.

Today, the street art scene has evolved from its former underground and minor existence to play a part in the global art scene. Artists listed by many artists but not well known to the general public are sometimes called “Unknown Famous Artists,” Kami is certainly one of them in the art world.

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