Photo by Dragon76

Dragon76’s mural on 13th Street and First Avenue.

Read the original story in Japanese at NY Japion
Translated and condensed by Rebecca Suzuki

It has been three and a half years since the artist known as Dragon76 immigrated to New York. Last year, he held his first exhibition at at The Compound, a gallery in The Bronx. Things were going well for him until the number of Coronavirus cases exploded in the city and he was no longer able to find work, making it impossible to earn a living as a freelance artist. 

“At first, it was hard to keep my spirits up. But then I made up my mind to do whatever I could, so I stayed indoors and thought about new work or created new styles by manipulating paint brushes,” the artist told Japanese news site NY Japion. “I was also able to dedicate some time to selling figures and t-shirts that I had spent the past year and a half working on. Fortunately, the sales went well with my fans and my merchandise sold out immediately.”

Dragon moved to the city he always aspired to be in. The concept of his work is “coexist,” very fitting for the current time.

“Different races, non-binary gender, people and nature, coexisting with technology are the biggest themes I work with. In there I also mix New York culture and the inspiration I get from all sorts of people around me in order to create something new. I use warm colors for a positive vibe in my artwork.”

The murder of George Floyd in May took place as the world was full of fear due to the pandemic. Dragon was inspired to paint a portrait mural of Floyd on the wall of Ichibantei, a Japanese restaurant on 13th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan.

“When I heard about the looting and violence that erupted, it seemed like a separate issue from the protests, and I was filled with sadness. I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I looked for a space to create art, and reached out to Ichibantei Restaurant, whose wall I had worked on before, and they allowed me their wall as my canvas.”

Countless people stop to take photos of Dragon’s artwork featuring the portrait of George Floyd.

“I hope the murder of George Floyd carries us towards a future where we can respect each other despite our racial differences. I hope to continue making art in different places, sending my own message out to the world.”