You've probably seen Adam Fujita's neon murals EVERYWHERE in Bushwick lately. Since the election results of 2016, the artist has been using neon as a metaphor for "keeping the lights on" during this volatile administration. His striking pieces, painted shortly after news events, work as calls-to-action on the streets.
Adam's first New York City solo show 'I Give 100 Fucks', just opened at 3rd Ethos Gallery, takes his activism to another level. Described by Bushwick Daily as '1 of the 5 hottest events this week', it features 100 custom pieces, and 100% of the artist's proceeds will benefit 100 individual causes. Each piece is priced at $150 to support local and global non-profit initiatives and programs.
As Adam says, 'We live in a time of great apathy and diminishing empathy. I think this is so dangerous. While our country is attempting to be lead by a regime of moral midgets I feel like we as artists have to do more than say things. We have to take action. In building this show I wanted to push back on the popular and lackadaisical phrase “I don’t give a fuck” and in opposition of this I focused on 100 causes, non-profits and orgs I give a fuck about. We are trying to raise as much money as possible for these groups.'
SOLD Magazine's own Sarah Sansom spoke with the artist as he prepared for his show.
Sarah Sansom: What gave you the idea for literally creating 100 ‘fuck’ paintings?
Adam Fujita: The idea came from my first solo show in Chicago in March. I did 4 pieces on paper that were very similar to what I’m showing tonight. The title of the four together was ‘Reaction’, and they said, ‘fuck’, ‘shit’, ‘fuckin’ and ‘fuck’. These were words that I realized I’d been saying a lot in reaction to the news of the day. The news had made me say a lot of vulgar words (which, by the way: it’s good to let out our frustrations on words like that).
Those four pieces sold in the first few minutes of that show. They’re also like my neon flipped backwards. The pieces at the ‘I give 100 Fucks’ show and in Chicago are really bright, fluorescent backgrounds then the black text on top of it. Very much a reversal of what I do with my neon, which is almost always a dark background with these bright neon colors.
People reacted SO strongly to the ‘fuck’ pieces in particular - that was the impetus to make more. It was one of those moments, sitting with a friend, talking about the Chicago show, that ‘fuck’ piece and that I give a fuck about a lot of things; the idea that we’re becoming... more and more lethargic. It’s so easy to say, ‘whatever’ or ‘I give zero fucks’ about something, as if it’s cool to not care. There’s always been that thing in our society that people who care the least have that rebel kind of quality. I think that is totally charming and has its place, but I think that for most of us it’s really important to give a fuck. I couldn’t do a show with one ‘fuck’ so I decided to do 100 ‘fucks’.
SS: What are you most concerned about in this administration?
AF: Today, as I speak to you on Thursday April 26, 2018, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the travel ban: 5 predominantly Muslim countries’ citizens banned from traveling here. It’s a conservative-leaning bench and some of the justices are debating whether some of the words Trump said during his campaign can be used against him… I don’t understand why that’s even in question, it’s really clear. He’s made statements all along the way that are hateful and xenophobic.That concerns me a lot.
In my thesis year in grad school I focused on creating products and services to better serve undocumented New Yorkers, and really undocumented people anywhere. This idea that banning, I heard it was eight percent of Muslims in the world from those five countries? I don’t really understand what that’s going to do to make us safer.
It harkens back to my personal family connection to a very similar situation: I’m half Japanese, and my father, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins were all put in incarceration camps in World War ll. Almost all of my family were born in California.They had their lives uprooted and put on hold for almost 3 years because of their Japanese ancestry and, I guess, could not be trusted. You’d think we would have learned from that mistake. It’s one the most shameful parts of modern American history, and that’s been confirmed by many a scholar.
We didn’t learn from it, and he’s trying to do the same exact thing. It’s disgusting, and I think it’s so hateful. It’s beyond shameful. That is definitely one of the things that I am most concerned about right now. It’s heavy, and it’s intense, and there’s a place for street artists to be talking about this.
SS: It’s great that your proceeds from this show will benefit 100 charities. How did you choose them?
AF: I chose the groups - causes, non-profits, .orgs, a foundation or two (not necessarily charities) by a couple different ways: Ones I already had interest in/was passionate about/cared about, and wanted to highlight or celebrate more. I also wanted to keep it local. It’s one of the reasons that 3rd Ethos was such a perfect place to do this show, because their mission is to support local groups and be part of the local community. They are pretty well connected. One of Connie’s partners (Connie runs the gallery) is already deeply rooted in the non-profit space and had a lot of relationships.
It would’ve been easy for me to put together 100 orgs/groups/causes I cared about, but some of them were huge. We pulled the ACLU down because there are smaller, local groups adjacent to the ACLU but probably aren’t getting as many opportunities for grants as them. That was some of the ways that we chose the groups that we’re serving.
DJ Francis Nishida on opening night. Added bonus: the work glows in black light (R photo: Ow.ley)
SS: Are there any you have personal connections with, or a personal reason for choosing them?
AF: Every one of them has meaning to myself, Connie, 3rd Ethos, and my family and friends. Are there ones that stand out to me? Definitely:
My friend Jason has his non-profit called ‘Next Gen Men’, an Ontario based org. They’re talking about and investigating the role of masculinity in our society right now, and what it is to be masculine in 2018. I think that’s really important work, especially with a guy like Trump in the Oval Office whose idea of masculinity is bullying. I think that we can all agree that we’re well past bullying as a sport. So Next Gen Men is one cause that I’m interested in that’s small and local.
We also did the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and for me, a group like C.U.P. is just so interesting. For those who don’t know, they’re basically a non-profit based in New York. They use design to create more civic engagement. They’re a group that I’ve looked to for inspiration for a long time. When I think about the work that I’m trying to do, it’s also trying to create meaningful civic engagement, so thats a group I was excited to get on the list.
A wall of colorful 'ducks', as the artist described to his young daughter...
Each painting corresponds to a specific org/cause. Choose the art AND group you want to benefit.
SS: Is there anyone you want to thank in getting the show together?
AF: I want to thank my friend Brad (Ow.ley) who made a videos to support the show.
The people at the gallery - Jen, Rachel, and most importantly Connie, the curator of this space, have really been just gung-ho/supportive/excited about this show. It took a LOT of work to organize this list and to contact every group prior.
All of the people that are supporting me that I don’t even know - everybody on Instagram, and so many clients that I’m really grateful for.
I really need to give a huge nod to my wife and my daughter. My wife is pregnant, we’re having a second daughter in two months, and absolutely nothing I do would be possible without them - not one pen stroke. I can’t even say enough about how much I love them.
SOLD also spoke with the gallery owner, Connie Byun, to get her take on the experience.
Sarah Sansom: What was this show like to put together?
Connie Byun: It took much planning, coordinating and most importantly, a lot of hard teamwork. Adam shared this unique concept behind his art and we both had the same vision and idea of the show which made it easy to work towards. Behind the scenes, there was a lot of collaborating, coordinating, teamwork and late nights between the team of volunteers to bring it to life.
SS: How did your gallery come about?
CB: I wanted to offer a multifunctional space for artists of all facets and for the community. I envisioned the space to be creative hub, a think tank, design/work and retail space. I’ve been in this same neighborhood of Bushwick for 15 years and have been fortunate to be part of the local community and see growth of the art community here. The gallery is work in progress, as I want it to be a living, breathing, always evolving space.
'Enough', painted in Bedford-Stuyvesant shortly after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS shooting