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Graffiti is not a neutral subject.  Commonly linked with gang culture and territorialism, even the word connotes a certain negativity.  In the hands of husband and wife, Dennis Callwood and Keiko Fukzawa, the world of graffiti takes on a very different vibration.  El Camino College Art Gallery presents Centripetal Force, works by Dennis Olanzo Callwood and Keiko Fukazawa, done in collaboration with inmates from Camp McNair.

Artist and deputy probation officer, Callwood heads a creative arts program at Challenger Memorial Youth Center, a locked-down rehabilitative facility in Lancaster, California. Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he is educated in both social work and art.  He has both an MFA in photography from USC and an undergraduate degree in sociology from UC Santa Cruz.  Callwood photographs the youths in his rehab arts program with an unflinching honesty.  He then mounts the B&W photos on framed boards and hands them over to the young men to respond to, in words and drawings applied to the boards.  The resulting works are vital and sometimes excruciating depictions of the youths as they see themselves, with graffiti, gang symbols and tattoos.  The images provide a window into their world, illustrating at once, tremendous fierceness and vulnerability.  Callwood says of the Challenger Memorial Arts Program at Camp McNair, �It was thought that allowing these juveniles to express themselves freely in a designated space would help to maintain a graffiti-free camp, and at the same time instill in them the self-discipline needed to start and complete an art project.  An added bonus for most was a relief from the boredom associated with an overly regimented life.�

Keiko Fukazawa, who was born in Japan, now lives in Pasadena, California where she teaches ceramics at Pasadena City College.  Fukazawa, who was trained in classical Japanese brush work, Japanese painting and traditional ceramic techniques, came to Los Angeles to study art at Otis/Parsons where she earned an MFA and totally reinvented her approach to art making.  Currently Fukazawa creates oversized, classically shaped ceramic vessels (such as a 4'x4' pitcher), which she breaks apart with a hammer.  She disperses these fragments to the incarcerated youth in the Challenger Memorial program.  She says, �To me, graffiti is a wonderful art form.  How about using it in a more positive way?�  Within established parameters, the young men Fukazawa independently decorate the shards with graffiti, images inspired by pop culture, Japanese erotic painting and Italian majolica painting. She then reassembles the large forms, creating vessels covered with puzzle pieces of juxtaposed images that cross boundaries of time and culture.

Additionally, Fukazawa and Callwood purchase clothing-bags, shoes, T-shirts, jackets and kimonos and pass them out to the incarcerated youths.  Together they created wildly imaginative patchworks of imagery and graffiti. At a given event or party, Dennis and Keiko are easy to spot in their elegantly flamboyant gear.

SUSANNA MEIERS
Curator El Camino College Art Gallery

DENNIS CALLWOOD

In Memory of Jasmine, 30x40, 1993
mixed media w/ black & white photograph

Mercy,
30x40, 1994
mixed media w/ black & white photograph

Xoatche, 30x40, 1993
mixed media w/ black & white photograph
KEIKO FUKUZAWA

White Poppy ,
27x27x3, 2001
paint on bisque

Grottesche
, 26x26x3, 2002
paint on bisque

Good Luck, 72x50x3, 2005
mixed media


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