Studio SoHy’s latest art show brings Japanese culture to ‘tiny hall’

"Gimme Some Freedom to Draw," a solo show by artist Zunzima, opens at Studio SoHy on Saturday. Photo by Krissi Humbard

BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Studio SoHy has brought another vibrant artist to Hyattsville.

Coming off the community oriented “@OurHyattsville Show” and the powerful and political #womensmarch installation, the newest “tiny hall” show features artwork by Zunzima, aka Takashi Nakajima, a self-trained illustrator who was born and raised in Japan. “Gimme Some Freedom to Draw” showcases seventeen works that are currently on display in Studio SoHy’s space.

The show’s opening reception — with ramen pop-up — will be Saturday during the Downtown Hyattsville Arts & Ales Festival. Bronwyn King, co-founder and curator of Studio SoHy, said she wanted the opening to coincide with the arts festival, as Studio SoHy’s contribution.

Zunzima draws inspiration from Japanese pop culture. He includes elements of manga, cartoons, movies and comedy TV shows in his work. His pieces are also infused with Western urban themes, as seen in his graffiti-style typography.

“When you actually walk up close to really look at his intricate drawings, it’s really amazing; all the detail he incorporates into [his work],” King said.    

Zunzima works primarily freehand, spending hours detailing his characters. This intense attention to detail is evident in his works, including the large-scale piece entitled “America.”

“I always wanted to make an art piece about the US because, for me, the US is my father who toughened me up; to show my appreciation, I wanted to make a piece about it,” Nakajima said.

 

He calls “America” his long project. He says he had the idea for a long time before the piece came to life. It took Donald Trump being elected president (“It was a wake up call,” he says) and witnessing the Women’s March to get him to start painting.

“The Women’s March was very impactful for me. I witnessed the power of the people of America,” Nakajima said. “That gave me so much energy. So I started to paint.”

“This ‘America’ piece is about cultural diversity, and the uniqueness and the greatness of all the immigrants in the country,” Nakajima explained. “The style of painting is a mixture of cartoon, graffiti, abstract, and automatism drawing. The black and white letters that spell ‘America’ in the center are drawings on paper that I cut out and put on the painting, to represent the encounter of different cultures and races.”

King says the show came about after she contacted Hiroaki Mitsui, formerly of Toki Underground and Maketto in DC, about his ramen pop-up shop, Uzu. Mitsui and Nakajima work together on Uzu, which began as a small pop-up inside Honeycomb Grocer at Union Market. Uzu then moved into Shopkeepers when it opened in January and spent six months there serving Japanese comfort food  — and being named one of the DMV’s best cheap Japanese restaurants by “Washingtonian Magazine.” Currently Uzu is working on securing a brick-and-mortar location, Mitsui said.

During the opening reception for “Gimme Some Freedom to Draw,” Uzu will serve a limited quantity of Japanese Shoyu ramen and vegetarian okonomiyaki just outside Studio SoHy.

“We are excited to bring Japanese comfort food to Hyattsville,” Mitsui said, “and look forward to seeing you all!”

The Zunzima show and Uzu ramen pop-up will be Saturday, Sept. 23, Noon-6 p.m. at Studio SoHy (the “tiny hall” inside Vigilante Coffee) located at 4327 Gallatin St. “Gimme Some Freedom to Draw” will be on view through the end of October.