The Mazeking 飛龍
Gabriel Asoka was born, David C. Johnson III in Maryland in 1968. He is one of four children and his parents were both artists, his father a portrait painter and mother a classical singer. As a young child, Asoka started making drawings of animals and landscapes, at age seven he became deeply interested in the esoteric, martial arts and yoga. In 1986 he attended college while still in high school and studied science and music theory and he won the United States Achievement Academy Award for History. In 1990, he traveled to London as part of an NYU exchange program at the University of London where he studied film. In 1992 Asoka started working in film production as a way of supporting himself and exploring cinema as art-form. He had a keen interest in cinematography and the work of cinematographers; Gordon Willis, Vittorio Storaro and Vilmos Zsigmond. He worked on several films including, Guarding Tess, Mars Attacks, and Million Dollar Baby.
In 1998 he received his Bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Maryland. In that same year, after having a vivid dream one evening Asoka started making art full-time and for the first time in his life, considered himself an artist. A year later in 1999, Asoka sold his first five paintings to a private collector and participated in his first group exhibition at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In 2000 Asoka did a road trip across America, spending a great deal of time in the Grand Canyon and desert as part of developing and exploring his art practice. In 2001 three paintings by Asoka, including the first Opus painting, were auctioned at Bonhams with the proceeds going to the 911 Fireman fund. His first solo painting exhibition took place at the Don O’Melveny Gallery in Los Angeles in 2002.
Asoka’s work has been exhibited throughout the world and included in several collections. His paintings, photographs, and street art installations have been the subject of several exhibitions: Don O’Melveny Gallery, Los Angeles, 2002; Buddha Lounge Gallery, Los Angeles, 2003; Sari Gallery, Hollywood, 2004; Don O’Melveny Gallery, Los Angeles, 2006; Gallery 304, Chicago, Illinois, 2011; Time Square, SeeMe, New York City 2012; HH Installations, Paris, France, 2014; Louvre Museum, Paris, France, 2015; Zizzi Art Gallery, Portugal, 2016; Flatbush Open Studio, New York City, 2017.
In 2007 Asoka traveled throughout the US and Asia, visiting several cities and ancient sites. He was deeply moved by the art and symbolism of many ancient places including, Ayutthaya, Angkor Wat and Chaco Canyon. While in Asia, Asoka fell ill and within days had an NDE. Soon after that experience, he went on to change his name. In 2011 Asoka created his first interactive street art project Happiness Here and in 2012 he started placing Happiness Here installations throughout New York City. It was at this time he started using his childhood title and moniker as his street art name, The Mazeking. In 2013 he did a collaboration with NY State Poet Laureate Marie Howe. In 2014 Asoka took Happiness Here global, placing installations in Los Angeles, Jersey City, Baltimore and collaborated with French firm Brandelet-Devineau and fashion company Somewhere France, installing his street artworks throughout Paris. To date Asoka has done over 201 Happiness Here installations throughout the world. His art has been featured by several media including, Oprah, The Huffington Post, American Public Media, Fetfan, Art QA, Elle, NPR and Glamour among others.
Gabriel Asoka currently lives and works in New York City.