Features & Columns

Japantown Art Walk signifies
a resurgence on Jackson St.

Japantown holds monthly art walk at shops around the neighborhood
Japantown Art Walk STATE'S SECRET: Dan Wysuph showed his work at State of Grace Tattooduring last month's second Friday art walk in Japantown.

At last month's Japantown Art Walk, on Friday the 13th, I sat there, practically in the middle of the street, drawing a hideous Giger-inspired monstrosity on a tiny fluorescent piece of Post-it-looking paper while kids scampered about a granite bench on the sidewalk. Thanks to artist Ming Schipper, I had baskets of Prismacolor pens to choose from.

Petite Galleria, which orchestrated this particular spectacle, sits almost unnoticed on Jackson Street. The store stocks a fantabulous mishmash of local artisan goods and jewelry, plus visual art, photography, food and teastuffs. For the art walk, Petite Galleria was just one of many indie groovy-licious joints on that ancient stretch of San Jose, one of the three last remaining authentic Japantowns in the whole US of A.

That night, randomly stumbling into a pen-and-ink tutorial on Jackson Street seemed totally indicative of the J-town Art Walk as a whole, the next one of which unfolds this Friday night, possibly doubling as a pre-Obon ramp-up. If you haven't prowled around Jackson recently, I'd recommend it. Ghosts of Dobashi Market, Soko Hardware and Japan Culture Video still seem to emerge from the shadows, but Japantown is rocking these days.

Quite a bit transpired at last month's art walk. Our friends at State of Grace Tattoo threw a fantastic exhibition of Dan Wysuph's work that still, um, graces the wall atop the staircase. The opening reception featured beer, coffee and lots of old-school Santa Cruz and San Jose folk who slithered out of the woodwork, it seemed. Over at Empire 7 Studios, the folks at Humble Beginnings Tattoo exhibited fine work. Cukui Clothing Company packed 'em in, as always, with art on the walls and awesome T-shirts aplenty. They are not the only T-shirt gurus on that street, fortunately or unfortunately, since any twentysomething who prints hipster slang on a color T-shirt is now a fashion designer, but I am thrilled at how Jackson Street has evolved over the years, no joke. This awesome thoroughfare shall forever be a part of me. I can't even calculate how many student loan dollars my friends and I spent at Kazoo, back when it still had tatami rooms and cheap unagi. And when WORKS/San Jose occupied a beautifully ramshackle corrugated-metal warehouse at Sixth and Jackson streets, before the cookiecutter condos steamrolled on in, we had some fantabulous memories.

But I digress. As I took in last month's art walk, it was quite easy for me to imagine how huge it could become. In other words, as a polarized right-brain creative type whose intrinsic methods ignore the small details and instantly see the bigger picture, it was natural to envision the potential here. After all, South First Fridays began with just a handful of institutions nearly 10 years ago and now look at what it's become.

In J-town's case, just imagine: Ukulele Source and Kamimoto String Instruments could both stage monthly art shows, as could the hair salons and the gift shops. I can see Hukilau curating a worldwide exhibit of tiki art. The vacant lot next to the ice cream shop is totally ripe for video projection into the wee morning hours. I can see some sort of "dancing on the empty space between" scenario, evoking multiple layers of meaning. Hell, as an homage to now-defunct places like the hardware store and the golf shop, I can even see organizing some sort of recycled garden tool and golf-club-based J-Pop-Art sculpture exhibition. You know, Isamu Noguchi collides with Barbara Hepworth in some crazed androgynous alchemical fusion of male/female, East/West proportions, using rakes, trowels, plumbing fixtures, bags of golf tees, extension cords, polyester shirts, snap-bill caps, light bulbs and lime green shoes.

Such was the hysteria running through my head at the last Japantown Art Walk. This month, on Friday, July 11, things are scaled down somewhat, as everyone's prepping for the Obon Festival over the weekend. Just a few things of note: Petite Galleria will yet again stage Ming Schipper's pen-and-ink tutorial from 7-10pm, a great event for kids. Accordionist Gianfranco Paolozzi will also perform. Over at 2Twenty5, select works by Brian Delumpa will be on display. Our friends at Polar Bell Embroidery will stage an indoor anime film night, beginning at 9pm, replete with the Kushi Yaki Kuishinbo food truck outside. I think I'm turning Japanese already.

Japantown Art Walk

Friday July 11

Jackson Street, San Jose