Spotlight: Usugrow

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-19-46-pmUsugrow signing a limited edition print
FIFTY24SF Gallery, 2014

Brush strokes, skulls, and punk rock consume the  monochromatic dimension of Japanese artist Usugrow.

I was first introduced to Usugrow‘s work by following the roster of artists that San Francisco-Based company Upper Playground features in their products and online content. I instantly gravitated toward his style. His incorporation of iconography, his unique calligraphy, and  strict use of minimal colors (mainly black and white) became my favorite things about his work.

When I started to follow Usugrow, I hunted diligently for his art prints, scare art books, and products that his work has been featured on. My wardrobe became filled with the t-shirts he designed for various companies like Upper Playground, Famous Stars and Straps, and The Hundreds to name a few.

When I attended San Diego Comic-Con in 2008, I had a brief run-in with Usugrow. He was releasing a very limited edition vinyl toy called the Rebel Ink. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attain a ticket to purchase one of these pieces. However, I was able to meet him for the firs time and speak to him. I am paraphrasing here, but I basically told him how much of a fan of his work I was, and how I appreciated him traveling from his home country of Japan to be with us. It was very short, and unfortunately I didn’t have my sketchbook with me for him to contribute to, but it was awesome to meet the man behind the masterful work.


I requested for Usugrow to write the names of both my grandmothers and my mother: Estella, Maria, and Celia.



In mid-2009, FIFTY24SF was the home to Usugrow’s curated show titled  Shinganist. FIFTY24SF is the auxiliary gallery ran by Upper Playground and is conveniently located next door to the retail space. Shinganist was a group show consisting of Japanese artists: Mozyskey, Toshikazu Nozaka, Bene, and Jun Kaneko. In conjunction with the show, there was a release for a book that shares the same name as the show. I got a few artists to sign my art book and interacted with Usugrow for a second time. This time, he contributed to my sketchbook with his amazing calligraphy. I would have been damned if I allowed him to pass without gracing his work in my sketchbook. The show itself was an awesome collection of monochromatic works which complimented each artists positively. A mixture of painting, silkscreen work, sculptures, and multimedia pieces occupied the gallery space.

I bumped into him a few times after that. A few years later, conveniently in the same gallery, Usugrow was featured for a solo show titled Inkflow. This happens to be my favorite show of his. It was a more intimate setting with only his work. Had my black book signed and took photos with him, but there’s one thing that remained the same: his shortness of words. He was a very soft-spoken, stoic Japanese person that personified the essence of his work. He was as mystifying and dark as his paintings and calligraphy came out to be.


With the artist in 2014 for “Inkflow” solo show

I am grateful for his work to be present in a San Francisco gallery. I hope he continues to create the most mind-blowing work of his life.