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Japan Meets the Mission in Letterpressed Sugar Skulls

Daruma Sugar Print (Jonathan Koshi)

Inspired by the iconography of the calaveras de azúcar associated with Dia de los Muertos, local artist and Mission resident Jonathan Koshi has released his second series of pop culture sugar skulls. While his first round ran the gamut from Kermit to Spy vs. Spy, this round draws directly from his Japanese heritage, transforming cultural icons like Tetsujin, Domokun, and the daruma into sugar skulls. “Growing up in Hawaii, I was influenced a lot by Japanese pop culture,” says Koshi. “One of my earliest childhood memories is of my first toy robot my parents brought back from a trip to Japan when I was 6. It was then I became a life-long fan of the giant robots and the toy culture there.” He also notes that “later influences like the Domokun are obviously part of the Internet culture, but also show my endearment for the ‘kawaii’ pop symbols too.”

For each of the five designs in the series, Koshi also created five inkless letterpressed impressions of each design, called blinds. For the artist, the blinds are a visual moment of silence, and 100% of proceeds from the blind sales will be donated to Give2Asia in order to help the Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief effort. "It isn’t difficult to understand the gravity of a disaster like the one in Japan this March despite the thousands of miles that separate us,” he says. “It is, however, difficult to feel like you can help being so far away." He is auctioning each of the blinds (minus a few he has already sold) on eBay, with a starting bid of $150. He sees the donations as a small token to those who have lost their lives and livelihood to the disaster and, as he puts it, a way to “honor the rich Japanese pop culture that has played an important part in my artistic upbringing.”

All prints are 12" x 12" in size. Head to his website to buy the regular prints and get to the blind auctions.