The work of Daniel Arsham and Kaz Oshiro copies objects designed by other people. The execution of the pieces is superb but raises questions about whether art will ever escape from the existential darkness that descended during the dying days of abstract expressionism. Daniel Jeffreys reports.
It’s hard to imagine two artists with a different air about them than Kaz Oshiro and Daniel Ashram. Arsham is an American born showman artist who has designed sets for ballet, champagne cases for Perrier Jouet and window installations for Dior. Oshiro from Okinawa, Japan steps warily aside from being called an artist and shudders at the thought of making work for a luxury brand. And yet the two men became stable mates at Galerie Perrotin in Hong Kong last November for a pair of solo shows called #FUTUREARCHIVES (Arsham) and Logical Disjunction.
It was an inspired choice by the gallery for New York-based Arsham and Los Angeles resident Oshiro represent the two polar opposites of modern art, the east coast Arsham being a devotee of art is everything who tweets about his shows and his sales and is prepared to take commercial commissions if they water his creativity; while Oshiro walks a zen path through the inside of his head and seems blissfully unconcerned about how many people join him for the ride. Arsham collaborates with Pharrell Williams, Oshiro does not. Enough said.
When I arrived at Galerie Perrotin to meet both men I thought I had come to the wrong place. The first room in the large space was occupied by what looked like a pair of discarded IKEA file cupboards, a set of amplifiers from the 1970s and two broken yellow canvases. I looked around to see where the removal guys had gone. Welcome to the disconcerting world of Kaz Oshiro in which ordinary objects are presented in what appears to be the must mundane of fashion, just to tweak our comfortable assumptions about appearance and reality.
Since the early phase of his career, Oshiro’s artistic inspiration sprang from everyday objects, such as old microwave ovens, amplifiers, kitchen cabinets, washers and car bumpers. He recreated these “sculptural images” by stretching the canvas over frames, assembling them three-dimensionally, and finally giving them a trompe-l’ œil extreme precision.
Ironically, Oshiro’s remarkably realistic “objects” are not functional: the amplifiers are mute and cabinets cannot be opened. The Galerie’s curator notes that, “The practical use of the objects is deliberately precluded, thus subverting the expectations of the viewer. Flawed by their fictional history in the form of stains, blots, scratches and stickers, they are meant to be utilitarian objects with the slightest possible representational value.”
Walk around the back of an Oshiro piece and there is a void that “exposes the secret of his canvas stretchers. It is Oshiro’s intention to reveal his practice, after all the works are nothing more than illusions for the sake of art.” At first the pieces tempt the causal viewer to laugh and condemn Oshiro as a charlatan peddling naked tomfoolery but closer inspection reveals a stunning truth – the painterly rigour with which Oshiro has executed his pieces has all the hallmarks of fine art. Stand with them in silence for a few minutes and their intensity begins to beguile… Read more in Quintessentially Asia.