Conf lict­ing al­le­giances

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By David Pagel L.A. Lou­ver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-4955, through July 2. Closed Satur­days and Sun­days. www.lalou­ver.com

Ga­jin Fu­jita’s bold paint­ings at L.A. Lou­ver ex­plore big is­sues such as power and loy­alty.

Ten years ago, bill­boards across South­ern Cal­i­for­nia pro­claimed that the base­ball team then known as the Ana­heim An­gels had be­come the Los An­ge­les An­gels. Fans got mad.

Long-stand­ing lovers of the Ana­heim An­gels felt be­trayed. Die-hard Dodgers sup­port­ers felt that their turf had been vi­o­lated. Less pas­sion­ate ob­servers saw the name change as a cor­po­rate ma­neu­ver to grab a larger mar­ket share.

Af­ter a four-year legal battle, the Los An­ge­les An­gels of Ana­heim came into be­ing. The ge­o­graph­i­cally il­log­i­cal moniker pleased no one but the lawyers.

Sim­i­lar is­sues — about power and loy­alty, iden­tity and his­tory, money and love — un­fold in Ga­jin Fu­jita’s 13 mag­nif­i­cent paint­ings at L.A. Lou­ver. Made over the last four years, of­ten with a lit­tle help from his friends, Fu­jita’s stunning stews of graf­fiti and gold leaf bring im­pres­sive com­plex­ity to the heroic quest to find mean­ing in a world oth­er­wise in­hos­pitable to in­di­vid­u­als, strong­willed and oth­er­wise.

All of Fu­jita’s paint­ings in “War­riors, Ghosts and An­cient Gods of the Pa­cific” make a hash of brands, mix­ing and mash­ing sym­bols and em­blems as the 42-yearold artist plays fast and loose — and very pur­pose­fully — with his­tory, geog­ra­phy and author­ity.

In Fu­jita’s pic­tures, sword-wield­ing samu­rai, decked out in Dodgers blue and An­gels red — as well as Raiders black and a rain­bow of other colors — make a mess of ex­pec­ta­tions and al­le­giances. Fan­tasy and re­al­ity rub shoul­ders as wild boar and gold­fish em­body virtues that can­not be owned, con­trolled, or trade­marked.

The same goes for the mytho­log­i­cal fig­ures Fu­jita por­trays. Deities and demons battle bravely and shame­lessly. The distinc­tion be­tween honor and sub­terfuge of­ten gets lost in the fog.

Ukiyo-e wood­block prints by such masters as Nishimura Shi­ge­naga, Uta­gawa Koku­ni­masa and Uta­gawa Ku­nisada form the ba­sis of Fu­jita’s com­po­si­tions, which con­sist of over­lap­ping styles, tech­niques and images, as well as colors, tex­tures and mes­sages. It’s a cock­tail of inf lu­ences that in­cludes Edo paint­ing, shunga print­mak­ing, Kabuki theater, pop graph­ics, im­age­and-text Con­cep­tu­al­ism, East L.A. gang writ­ing and wild-style graf­fiti.

Amid the chaos, art emerges as the big win­ner. It pro­vides a slice of space in which Fu­jita and his band of mav­er­icks, mal­con­tents and mis­fits strut their stuff so boldly and beau­ti­fully that vis­i­tors can’t help but want to get in on the ac­tion.

L.A. Lou­ver

SAMU­RAIS, SPRAY PAINT and graf­fiti leave a vivid mark in Ga­jin Fu­jita’s “South­land Stand­off.”

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