Susumu Kamijo was born in 1975 in Nagano, Japan, about 150 miles northwest of Tokyo. He moved to the U.S. when he was 16 and went to high school in Salem, Oregon. Kamijo did not have much of a social life in high school, but that changed when he attended the University of Oregon, where he met students who were into music and art.
Kamijo had taken classes in philosophy, anthropology and writing before taking classes in painting and drawing. He found that he enjoyed the art classes and earned his BFA in 2000. He continued his studies in Seattle at the University of Washington and received his MFA in painting and drawing in 2002, along with classmate, Jonas Wood.
Career and Personal Life
Susumu Kamijo painted abstracts and portraits and even did some standup comedy when he moved to Brooklyn.
He found his niche when he began accompanying his girlfriend, Marta, a dog groomer, to dog shows. He became fascinated with the way poodles at the shows were groomed and the forms and compositions that the grooming created.
He began drawing poodles, using pastel pencils and oil pastels to create sharp, geometric edges that define each portrait. Kamijo says that the clean lines and sensibility of his work may have been influenced by his Japanese background. “From an objective point of view about myself, maybe- because I’m Japanese- I think there’s an influence on some level from Japanese printmaking.” he said in a 2018 interview. “Even though it’s not really a conscious thing, it maybe manifests in subconscious ways. I like to set up certain proportions or certain structures this way or that way and I think that tends to come across like Japanese art stylistically but I’m not trying to do that on purpose necessarily. I’m also a big fan of absurdity.”
In 2017, Jonas Woods joined Kamijo at Sotheby’s S/2 Gallery in New York for the signing of Kamijo’s book Poodles, which features an interview that Woods did with Kamijo.
Susumu Kamijo has had solo exhibits at Marvin Gardens, Komagata Maru, Sotheby’s S2 and Harpers Books in New York, the Tortoise Gallery in Los Angeles, the Stems Gallery in Milan, the Sakurado Fine Arts Gallery in Tokyo and the Rod Barton Gallery in London and has been part of group shows in the U.S., the UK, Taiwan, Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg.
Kamijo lives and works in Brooklyn with his girlfriend, Marta, her poodle, Kuro and Kamijo’s wire fox terrier.