April 23 – June 8, 2022
Roll Up Project is pleased to present artworks by Craig Nagasawa. Nagasawa’s recent body of work explores the legacy of his family’s grocery store, the Sunrise Fish Market, and ways his experiences as a third-generation Japanese-American differ from his parents and grandparents.
The Sunrise Fish Market was part of Salt Lake City’s vibrant Japan Town until 1968, when the neighborhood was demolished as part of a redevelopment program. While his family moved and established a new restaurant, the tightknit culture of the neighborhood was lost forever.
Japan Town (2022) fills the window on Harrison Street. The charcoal on paper drawing depicts the Sunrise Fish Market from two perspectives: from the street, and inside. It is Nagasawa’s own take on fukinuki yatai, or “blown-off-roof perspective,” a Japanese painting style that allows viewers to see a building’s exterior and the action taking place inside. In the foreground, Gojira runs amidst children playing on the sidewalk. The children are modeled after Nagasawa, his daughter, and his father and aunt, collapsing time and generational stories into a single layer. Nagasawa has included Gojira in several of his artworks as a way of confronting racial stereotypes. In this context, the monster brings a sense of play and humor to the composition. In others, it is a way of exploring more menacing remnants of World War II, the atomic bomb, and the “othering” of Japanese-Americans. Nagasawa points out that Gojira was a low-fi monster – just a man in a rubber costume – and he always regarded the beast as somewhat comical rather than frightening.
Japan Town condenses and merges memories of childhood into a composition filled with joy, humor, and a sense of belonging. Nagasawa’s personal experiences reflect the shared experiences of so many second- and third-generation immigrants whose families contribute to our vibrant communities.
Sunrise Fish Market, My Eyes Are Different (2022), a suite of four paintings, is displayed in the Third Street windows. Each panel features circles and ovals of wood attached to the canvas, creating dimensional extensions of the surface. They act as lenses, sometimes enlarging the image like powerful eyeglasses, sometimes shifting color images to black and white. Fish and the store’s iconic red sign are prominent imagery in all four panels, along with a black 1960s sedan, a fleet of fishing boats at the dock, and a gleaming contemporary building. Nagasawa included his parents’ names – Mutsuko and Iwao – on one of the panels to honor their contributions to Japan Town. The overlapping imagery presents a dream-like encounter with Nagasawa’s lived experience.
Nagasawa’s paintings and works on paper act as a counterbalance to other depictions of Japanese-Americans, which often focus on injustice. They are a lasting reminder of the everyday experiences of many Japanese-Americans – playing, working, and gathering in welcoming spaces, and making meaningful contributions to cities and towns throughout the country.
Craig Nagasawa’s exhibition was supported in part by a Civic Arts Grant from the City of Berkeley.
About the Artist
Craig Nagasawa’s work combines the technical aspects of Japanese/Nihonga painting techniques with the personal vision of a third-generation Japanese American. A Bay Area resident for the last 32 years, his work is represented in private and public collections in the United States, Switzerland, and Japan. He has had solo exhibitions at the Braunstein Quay Gallery in San Francisco from 2004, as well as group exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Walter McBean Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, and the Arts Commission Gallery in San Francisco. Craig has taught painting and drawing at UC Berkeley for over 27 years. His classes incorporate ancient practices of Japanese painting with contemporary art practices in the US.
Learn more about his work at craignagasawa.com