“Art For People” John Felix Arnold III Tokyo Interview
22 Jul, 2012
Words & Interview by Tokyo, Japan Correspondent, Tracy Jones
Article originally posted November 5, 2011.
For more on John Felix Arnold III visit: www.felixthethirdrock.com
Art For People
September 17th, Saturday night, 10 artists who didn’t know each other got together, hung their work in a gallery and held a benefit. Besides art, they all had another thing in common. They knew a tall barely bigheaded 30 year-old kid whose loud scratchy voice could be heard from blocks away, San Francisco-based artist John Felix Arnold III. He either went to school, grew up or lived with them in New York, North Carolina or San Francisco. The said artists included Kyoko Kawahata, Yoshitaka Kogure, Isaac Schulz, Yasutaka Hori, Ayako Udo, Aragna Ker, Alani Cruz, Junko Kawashima, F.L.I.K.S. and A.P.B. After Arnold came up with the idea to do the fundraiser, the next logical step was to do it in Japan. To him the idea was highly unlikely until he was standing in a gallery in the middle of Tokyo setting up his show, Art For People. It was organized and promoted by Kawahata, artist and owner of Bar USA. G.I. in Tokyo’s Omotesando district.
The one-night pop-up art show took place on September 18th near Tokyo’s Shibuya district. It’s the spot you hit up to drink, hang out and see anything from young Japanese women dressed like Sailor Moon to dudes rocking florescent pink Doc Martins and a purple RIP Nate Dog t-shirt. The show’s proceeds were donated to Ashinaga, a 40 year old non-profit dedicated to providing foster care for over 6,000 orphans per year. The March 11th earthquake and tsunami that struck Sendai, created a vacuum of devastation and horror, especially for the children who lost their families. Last June Ashinaga challenged the world to help them build The Rainbow House, a facility to help forge their efforts in the demolished areas.
John arrived in Japan for the first time to display his work and fundraise. He participated in several other events including live painting in Shinjuku at a punk show with Ken South Rock and teaching elementary school kids about art and hip-hop. He and his crew raised over $600 for the cause. Days after taking a 10 hour flight back home he was still buggin’ off the fumes from realizing that he was here.
Tracy Jones: How did you get the idea to go to Tokyo and do charity work?
John Felix Arnold III: One of my best friends had just moved to Tokyo and gotten married, and then the earthquake hit a week later. A lot of great people in my life live in Japan, and I’m eternally indebted to Japanese art and culture as a profound influence on my work and life, so when I saw the newscast of this huge disaster the first thing on my mind was “I need to go there and help immediately!”
TJ: How did Art For People go?
JFA: It was Awesome! It was at a beautiful third floor gallery called Ichy’s Gallery in Aoyama, Tokyo. The space was wonderful! We set up the night before and everyone was able to meet each other and get to work. Tons of people came through and showed support, we had artists, producers, models, DJ’s, chefs, a beautiful scope of Tokyo city life all came together for a great cause.
TJ: What’s the ultimate goal you want to accomplish in Japan?
JFA: I guess it really boils down to simply creating a dialogue and relationship with people there through art and other forms of communication.
TJ: What was your initial impression of Tokyo?
JFA: Tokyo is a behemoth! I have never seen anything like it. Any idea or conception or notion I had about it previous to arriving was immediately blown away and gone, upon being in it. I still cannot even wrap my head around it and could literally spend the rest of my life completely enthralled by its complexity. It was incredible to suddenly see places that I had looked at in comics like Akira, or had read about in Japanese history, but it goes far beyond that. I do not have the words nor the knowledge to even really comment on it.
TJ: What Japanese food have you tried and what’s your favorite?
JFA: Dude, I loved it all! Nato is the only thing to date that I am not into. But literally from the Ramen culture to the Sushi world to 7/11 it was all absolutely delicious and perfected. I could live there based on the food alone, and did not miss American food strangely enough. I am a huge Okonamyaki, Takoyaki, and Izakiya geek, and love the whole culture that revolves around and is a product of these types of foods! My first experience with this was in NYC at Yakitori Taisho in 1998, and now that I have been to the motherland I get it.
TJ: Your work includes elements of Japanese temples and shrines. How has it felt to see the real thing in person?
JFA: Pretty life affirming! I felt like my life had in a large way led up to being able to go to Kyoto and Osaka, meditate at, and interact with some of the most amazing temples in the world. Specifically knowing the history of them beforehand was really inspiring. It is kind of like trying to explain my perception of Tokyo, I really can’t put it into words, it is something you will see come through my artwork from here on out.
TJ: Have you met or discovered any Japanese artists that inspired you?
JFA: The people I worked with there were really inspiring! Kyoko Kawahata and Junko Kawashima’s work was awesome. I met some cats on the Bullet Train that are working artists and were doing the same type of hustling I do here in the states.
TJ: Last words?
JFA: I want to thank everyone who was a part of this project, everyone I met along the way, and the people of Japan for an amazing history, present, and future of art and creativity. Much love from East to West and back again!