In the largely male dominated culture of street art, AIKO (born Aiko Nakagawa, 1975, Tokyo, Japan) has affirmed her place as one of the most influential artists in the field. In 2012, she was the first woman to take over the iconic Houston/ Bowery Wall. Romantic and playful, her ambitious street art installations are inspired by her life experiences as a Japanese woman living in New York. She moved to New York from Tokyo in 1997 without being able to speak a word of English. Soon after her arrival, she began working in the New York studio of fellow Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. She also became active in the club scene as a DJ and party organizer. She enrolled in the media studies department of The New School and graduated with an M.F.A. degree in 2003.
Through the club culture, she met
artists Pat McNeil and Pat Miller with whom she founded the street art
collective FAILE, which activated the streets of New York with their
distinctive wheat pasted images. AIKO began to work independently in 2006,
continuing to work on the street, but increasingly focusing on gallery shows
and public commissions. She has collaborated with Banksy and was involved with
his film Exit Through the Gift Shop
AIKO’s work is inspired by Pop Art, old school graffiti and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. She combines techniques including stenciling, spray paint, silk screen and collage. She has created a unique hybrid artistic language that is both Japanese and American. AIKO has been able to introduce a strong feminist vision to street art.
Wynwood Walls, Miami, Florida, 2014. Photo © Martha Cooper. Courtesy of the artist.