I’m taking an evening class at the college this semester, which gives me plenty of opportunity to visit my old haunt the ECC Art Gallery. I don’t think I have time to cover the show in detail (it’s really interesting – I’d like to spend more time with it – go see for yourself), but the gist is that both Keiko and her partner Dennis Callwood work with young people who are involved in the penal system to create amazing work. My immediate reaction brings to mind the work of Gajin Fujita, who’s work is the result of the inevitable mingling of Japanese graphic culture and the folk typography of Los Angeles graffiti. There’s something very different about Keiko and Dennis’ work, though – the young people who they work with are not “graffiti artists”, the darlings of a suburban art consumer crowd, but gang members – their use of art and typography serves a practical, everyday communicative purpose. More thoughts on that later, I suppose.
I leave for Thailand in about two hours, but before I go, I’d like to single out Keiko Fukazawa’s ceramic work for some love. The full Flickr set of my images from the show is here, for your pleasure.
above – I don’t have the title – This pitcher is huge. I’m not 100% sure about the process on Keiko’s work, but it appears that she makes ceramic objects, shatters them and then glazes them in pieces. That’s what it looks like. After being glazed, she re-builsd them. I’m sure much can be made of this process of destruction and repair as a metaphor for descent and redemption, and that’s the most obvious interpretation of much of her ceramic work. I’m not sure if she works with others to actually glaze the pieces, or if she bases the glaze work off of other’s drawings, but either method seems appropriate. I’m not an expert on the history of ceramics, but there’s definitely a stylistic and color reference to earlier ceramic work.
above – I don’t have the title (detail) – The inside rim of the big pitcher. This is an amazing use/reference to the folk typography of Los Angeles gang culture. There’s a whole history to how these letters came to be like this, as heavily serif-ed Old English lettering mutated and simplified under the weight of time. Looking at this work, it somehow seems easier to be critical of “street art”, if only because of it’s relativistic and arbitrary tendencies.
above – Dragon – One of several plates/platters in the show. These are about 2.5′ – 3′ in diameter. I really like the blue & white colour pattern on this, if only because it reminds me of classic blue and white china.
above – Trade Mark – Another plate. This piece just looks great. I’ve seen a fair amount of graffiti smurfs over the years, and it’s nice to see one in glaze. The reproduction of the Milky packaging is really well done up close.
above – Kimono/Good Luck & Wedding Cake/Good Luck – the use of auspicious color and the modification of a traditionally white wedding Kimono through the addition of marker graffiti seems really well composed to me. This piece/installation makes up the entry space to the show and is really striking. The wedding cake is built up of connected maneki neko’s (lucky cats) and the white on white ceramics reminds me a lot of Tom Sachs monchromatic works, which I have always really enjoyed, especially his action figure based interpretation of the major arcana.
Anyways, that’s the short version – there’s more images coming when I get back.