Blum and Poe in Los Angeles is currently hosting an exhibition of new works by artist Shio Kusaka, her second solo exhibition with the gallery. Culling together a broad selection of ceramics ranging from pottery to small figurative totems, the exhibition examines shifting concepts of rhythm and tone as the viewer moves through the exhibition.
Kusaka’s work in the medium of ceramics is delicate in its sense of history and tone, and her impressive capacities for working with her material sees a range of techniques applied in subtle, yet ultimately striking forms moving from intricate, glazed dioramas on through to simple hatching patterns and enigmatic, curving silhouettes. This sense of progression is amplified by the exhibition itself, a series of flat countertops running through each room as if connected through the walls of the gallery that create the sense of an unbroken line of narration through the show itself. It’s a fitting concept in consideration of the works, which gradually approach a masterful series of stoneware vases depicting violent clashes between dinosaurs. The pieces, imbued with the artist’s nuanced approach to the final product, integrate momentary inflections of color to accent her scenes, rendering a captivating final product.
Yet an equally a delicate sense of humor pervades each of the works, with Kusaka often choosing cartoonish figurations or strangely comical accents that make the works all the more intriguing. In one scene, repeated several times in the show, a pair of overly muscular dinosaurs square off, in what appears to be a boxing match, their bodies informed more by human anatomy than a studious approach to archaeological models. The result is a work that remains awe-inspiring for its sense of detail and attention, yet ultimately knows when to show its hand, twisting the image through a more contemporary sensibility that makes it all the more compelling to view.
This mode of practice repeats itself in more subtle iterations throughout the rest of Kusaka’s work. Many of the works on view embrace imperfections in form and geometry, allowing patterns of glaze or carved lines across its surface to emphasize momentary breaks in the shape of the work. Yet these explorations are lent all the more weight by their comparison with pieces like (strawberry 44), a gorgeous red stoneware piece that is perfectly rendered and equally eye-catching in its dense red hue and delicate flecks of white. Wound into a complexly angled shape, the piece is perhaps the master-stroke of the show, a focal point that does little to bring attention to itself in comparison with her more expressly narrative or lighthearted pieces, yet still packs a visual punch of its own. This is countered again by a series of porcelain animal figurines, which add a timely break from the many pots and vases on show, and bring a sense of formal balance to the show through its single line of figures parading down the table’s pink surface.
The sheer range of expressive capacity, alongside the diversity of practice that Kusaka shows throughout, makes the show a quietly compelling visual experience, where the progression of works and their considered intentionality offers the viewer a playful visual journey.
The exhibition is on view through August 20th.
— D. Creahan
Shio Kusaka Exhibition Page [Blum & Poe]