Meet the Painter Fusing Ancient Japanese Techniques with Pop Art

Photo of Julia Goicochea
25 October 2017

A former musician, co-owner of Manhattan’s Stray Kat Gallery, and the odrld’s premier pioneer of Jap Pop Art, American artist Zane Fix is constantly reinventing himself. From Kyoto, Japan to Manhattan, New York, Brooklyn-born Fix has treated life as his canvas, and like his boundary-bending screen prints, Fix himself is the kind of man-made masterpiece you can only find in New York City.

Even more colorful than Fix’s signature aesthetic is the artist’s diverse background, a product of growing up in a decade when life was more “organic.” As a student at New York’s prestigious Cooper Union, Fix pursued a degree in architecture before dropping out after nearly four years but, luckily for art lovers everywhere, not before honing the hand-drawing skills which would prove invaluable decades later. After college, Fix dedicated himself to his music, rising from bassist and guitarist to band frontman and sharing the world’s most illustrious stages with the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Once this dizzying 15-year music career came to an end, Fix explains he was “forced to reinvent” himself. For a wild card like Fix, where better to do so than across the globe, in Kyoto, Japan.

Part of a generation raised on the works of Warhol and Lichtenstein, Fix credits his father, a musician and painter, with introducing him to the drastically different art of Japan, specifically, to Japanese screen prints. Adopted in Japan during the country’s Edo period, screen printing was a way for creators to mass produce print images. As a fan since childhood of the Japanese art form and of artists like Andy Warhol, who was known for “crossing borders,” mastering screen printing and the Japanese language seemed a natural next fit for Fix. After traveling to Japan in 1997, Fix would not only reinvent himself but also create a new, genre-defying class of visual art.

Jap Pop Art, a term first coined by The Boston Globe, refers to Fix’s blown-up Japanese screen prints featuring Western icons. Rock-and-roll artists, Hollywood subjects, and Japanese text that Fix writes himself characterize the artist’s work. Collections such as the “Pop Icons & Pinup Girls on Rice Paper” feature a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-era Audrey Hepburn sporting chopsticks in her chignon, while Fix’s “Geisha on Rice Paper” series showcases famous fashion brands, including Chanel and Louis Vuitton. When asked about his penchant for icons, Fix uses Marilyn Monroe (“She’s the first”) and David Bowie (“Always a step ahead of the trend”) as examples: “I look at those old icons,” he says, “because [I] hate to say it, but there are less icons around [now] than there were then.” However, Fix forgets that while it’s true Andy Warhol no longer walks among us, we have the “world-renowned guru of Jap Pop Art” in our midst, an icon for a new generation.

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