ARTIST AT A GLANCE
Tokyo-born Lady AIKO interprets the dynamics of sex work, eroticism, and female empowerment in her strip-club installation, equally inspired by Western red-light districts and Japanese shunga (16th-century erotic art).
AIKO studied graphic design and filmmaking in Japan but found her medium when she moved to New York City in 1997 and learned American culture through the language of street art, developing a romantic,mixed-media style inspired by graffiti, advertising, Pop Art and traditional Japanese aesthetics.
The Brooklyn-based artist, Lady AIKO continues to create work in the studio as well as public spaces around the world.
Unstoppable Waves From AIKO Artist
AIKO grew up in the concrete jungle of Tokyo, always making art and fantasizing about leaving the country to see more of the world and to work internationally. After studying filmmaking and graphic design at an arts university, Lady Aiko ventured to New York in 1997 without knowing anyone nor where to begin. She spent a lot of time in New York’s electro music clubs in Downtown, where she met fellow artists of every stripe, and started hosting film and music nights in the Meatpacking district. Around the same time, she was assisting a then upn-coming Takashi Murakami in his Brooklyn studio with his first solo exhibition in Soho, titled “Super Flat.” Aiko simultaneously attended The New School Media Studies for completing MFA, where she convinced professors and classmates that Graffiti & Street Art were her mediums and that they would embody the huge art movement of the new millennium. In the late 90s she stepped into the subversive tradition of stenciling and fly posting as one of the founding members of the FAILE collective. Lady AIKO threw herself full force into tagging, going bombing with her new street friends, and documenting their work along the way. By 2000 and the birth of the Internet, street art and graffiti started to become a global phenomenon. After 9/11, the vibe of New York changed, so she started traveling as part of FAILE and Brooklyn-based artist Bäst, meeting Shepard Fairey in Los Angeles, Banksy and Eine in London, and Space Invader in Paris, along the way. By 2005 Banksy went on his “Hang and Run” tear, hitting New York’s top four museums with his paintings illegally hung in their hallowed halls, with AIKO at his side. Around this time, AIKO broke away from FAILE and created her signature stencil ‘Bunny’ at Banksy’s studio, where she first sprayed it onto his bathroom door while she was visiting England. “It was fun to work with boys but I really wanted to make something for myself.
Behind the Passion of Lady AIKO’s Art
“I was born in the Year of the rabbit, and the rabbit is a symbol of long life and success in Asia. I thought of it as jumping higher, going to the next level,” she says. During her own metamorphosis into a solo artist, AIKO also incorporated the butterfly as a prominent element. Her ‘butterfly mask ladies’ paintings and derivations all grew from her fantastical mind, representing transformation, pleasure and fun for all. Lady AIKO plays with solids and bright colors, leaving her creations on walls where they either blend or beg ot to be seen. From the bikinibottomed women to giant hair-stick-sporting geishas down to that pink heart scrawl, the imagery showcases the historical, political, non-political, feminine, and beautiful parts of life, with a nod to the aesthetics of her Japanese heritage. Street art and graffiti became her mediums, her voice and her vehicles for moving around the city. She continues to travel the world, always eager to see unusual places and work in new environments. In a time when most stencils are digitally designed and machine-cut, Lady AIKO creates all of her stencils by hand, investing hours of preparation for what might be a moment of a passerby’s appreciation. She also paints large-scale murals with hundreds of sheets of stencils—a ridiculously meticulous endeavor few other stencil artists would ever dare. In 2012, AIKO stenciled the legendary Keith Haring’s Bowery wall in NYC—the first woman artist to do so. The young woman from Japan who once barely spoke English today speaks confidently through the streets of cities worldwide. “The street is free for everyone and a place to say something. I hope it continues in this way. Street art is done by people with passion, willing to take risks for freedom,” she says. Wherever the next movement is, AIKO will be there first. While Lady AIKO has widely exhibited work in varied mediums and been commissioned to paint large-scale murals worldwide, I wanted people to be able to hold a collection of her throw-ups—her more spontaneous and grittier stuff in the same lineage as the disruptors above. It’s good shit. Enjoy!