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Japan as a culture already has a set of rules that even the most ardent contrarians seem to follow. Graffiti and vandalism under these circumstances doesn’t seem like a prudent path, but when it does break through, when Japanese graffiti is at its finest, it’s important to understand that cultural touchstone. Things tend to fall in line in Japan. But when it comes to American culture, the Japanese have a way of internalizing it, reimagining it as something better and producing it with an authenticity that almost surpasses the original form. It happens in fashion, food and most tactile objects. The attention to detail is impeccable, and when it comes to graffiti, it’s done with absolute earnestness.
What we are indeed looking at is how one of the longest-running periods of art has traveled the globe and been reidentified and renamed, from NY to Tokyo to Moscow and back to NY once again. It’s like a game of telephone with art history. Who’ll be the last to explain its meaning is yet to be decided. In the meantime, three significant graffiti artists living and working in Japan are grappling with how their culture understands this new visual language. Let’s sit back and watch the serious discussion undo itself.