Born in Okinawa, Japan
Lives and works in Los Angeles, USA


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- M.F.A., California State University, Los Angeles

- B.A., California State University, Los Angeles

solo shows

- Diffuse Reflection, galerie frank elbaz, Paris, France

- Chasing Ghosts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Charles White Elementary School Gallery, Los Angeles, USA

- Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
- Still Life, Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles

- Sunset Drone, Las Cienegas Project, Los Angeles, USA
- Zeuxis pop, Villa du Parc, Annemasse, France

- Sundowner, galerie Emmanuel Perrotin , Miami, USA
- Home Anthology, galerie frank elbaz, Paris, France

- False Gesture, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
- Kaz Oshiro, Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York, USA

- Kaz Oshiro, Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels, Belgium
- Untitled Recordings, Clear Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

- Common Noise, galerie frank elbaz, Paris, France
- Room Acoustics, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan
- Paintings and Works on Paper, 1999-2006, Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, USA
- New Works, Project Room, Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York, USA

- Driving with Dementia, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, USA
- Subpar, Steven Wolf Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA

- Pomona College Museum of Art, Project Series, Claremont, CA, USA
- Drone, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica
- Room Acoustics, Tokyo Hipsters Club, Inart Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

- Out-n-In, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica

- Pop Tatari (Curse of Pop Music), Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica

group shows

- Spook Rock Road, Galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris, France

- Lifelike, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
- John Cage Effect Today, The Hunter College / Time Square Gallery, New York, USA
- Simulacrum, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH
- Okinawa Art in NY, The Nippon Gallery at the Nippon Club, New York, NY
- Bruce Conner and the Primal Scene of Punk Rock, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO
- Twelve, West Los Angeles College Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- Object Fictions, James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY

- New Image Sculpture, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, USA
- The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami, USA
- American exuberance, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
- California Art : Selections from the Fredrick Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
- Greater LA, New York, NY
- Conversation with Mathieu Mercier, Takaaki Izumi, Yuki Kimura, Soshi Matsunobe, Kaz
- Oshiro, Koki Tanaka about Abstract Objects, Super Window Project, Kyoto, Japan
- L'Insoutenable Légèreté de l'être, Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris, France
- Berlin-Paris, Galerie Frank Elbaz at Wentrup Gallery, Berlin, Germany

- The Artist’s Museum, MOCA, Los Angeles, USA
- Even Better Than the real Thing, Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art at Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, USA
- Crosstown Traffic, Wentrup, Berlin, Germany

- Une exposition de peinture, Zoo Galerie, Nantes, France
- Extending the Line, Fine Art Gallery, California State University, USA
- Rogue Wave ‘09, L.A. Louver, Venice, USA

- Like Lifelike : Painting in the Third Dimension, UC Riverside, Sweeney Art Gallery, Riverside, USA
- Call + response, MUDAM, a series of events hosted by artist Candice Breitz, Luxembourg
- One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now, Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, USA, curated by Melissa Chiu, Karin Higa, and Susette S. Min
- Less is less, more is more, that’s all, CAPC-Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
- Some Paintings, Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, USA, curated by Doug Harvey

- If Everybody Had An Ocean: Brian Wilson, Tate St. Ives, UK & CAPC-Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
- Beneath the Underdog, Gagosian Gallery New York, NY, USA
- Forged Realities, Universal Studios, Beijing, China
- One Way or Another : Asian American Art Now, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, USA

- Red Eye: Rubell Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL, USA
- One Way or Another : Asian American Art Now, Asia Society and Museum, New York, USA
- Smoke and Mirrors: Deception in Contemporary Art, University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA
- Banquet : A Feast for the Senses, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA
- Deaf, from the Audible to the Visible, galerie frank elbaz, Paris
- Tina B, Praha, Czech Republic, Curator : Pascal Beausse

- Thing: New Sculpture from Los Angeles, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA
- Re-form, Northern Illinois University Art Gallery, Chicago, USA

- Rock, Mark Moore Gallery, Los Angeles
- Giggles, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, USA
- Nothing Compared to This, Contemporary Art Center Cincinnati, Cincinnati, USA

- California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, USA
- Boundary Creatures, Kansas City Jewish Museum, Kansas City, USA. Curator : James
- January 13-February 28, 2004, Swiss Institute, New York

- Summer Program, Apex Art, New York. Curators : Mitchell Algus, Michelle Maccarone
- Group Show, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica
- Redux, Luckman Gallery, California State University, Los Angeles

- Group Show, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica

- A Proper Aesthetics of the War, Gallery Zero One, Los Angeles
- Lazy Susan, Long Beach City College Fine Arts Gallery, Long Beach, USA
- I’m in This Show, Fifty Bucks Gallery, Los Angeles
- LA, CA, Newspace, Los Angeles

  • May 1, 2017
    ArtAsiaPacific — 1 PAGE

  • November 30, 2013
    The Sun — 1 PAGE

  • November 29, 2013
    The Standard — 1 PAGE

  • November 21, 2013
    Milk Magazine — 1 PAGE

  • September 1, 2010
    Le Figaroscope — 1 PAGE

A Pop Zeuxis

by Paul Beausse

In the beginning was mimesis. For the greater pleasure of generations of beholders.
The canonical definition of art, ever since Plato and Socrates, has been raised on
the referential pedestal of the notion of imitation. The classical age of art history
affirmed that the imitation of nature was the ultimate goal of artistic activity. The
great myths on which this history was built, the commentaries by art historians and
aesthetic philosophers who compared talents in order to base their theories on the
intrinsic nature of art, drew on the description of major works, of lost masterpieces –
an ekphrasis, a literary description so detailed it could be used to reproduce the
painting – whose makers demonstrated exceptional skill in their capacity to
reproduce natural phenomena. Finally, Hegel in his Aesthetics rightly stated that the
reproduction of the world around us, however precise, was not in itself an adequate
definition of the supreme goal of art. And then the modernist avant-gardes broke
radically with twenty-five centuries of exegesis and lexical debates about art as
mimesis. This was the end of the artist’s submission to the objective coordinates of
the world — or so it was thought. And yet, at regular intervals realism has made its
comebacks, not to reassert the old order, or in an attempt to take refuge in tradition,
but no doubt as the seismographic expression of the nervous condition of society.
Stendhal even went so far as to say that realism comes to the rescue whenever art
is in crisis.
The art of Kaz Oshiro is exactly attuned to the issues of this incipient and
paradoxical twenty-first century. It proposes a highly personal and singular
synthesis of the ups and downs of artistic realism in the course of the last century
(due, notably, the artist’s life and different cultural levels that he has moved through
and mixed in the course of his career). And at the same time refers us, as the
starting point of his own practice, to one of the most powerful mythological origins
of the definition of art.
Oshiro’s works are deceptive. They have all the visual attributes of objects from the
consumerist culture of global capitalism. They are items of furniture from homes and
shops, from the domestic and economic spheres. Expressions of pop culture and its
underground subdivisions. Fragments of the civilisation of the sacrosanct motorcar.
Cupboards, dustbins, microwave ovens, fridges, amplifiers for electric music, spare
parts for cars (bumpers and tailgates from pick-ups). The artist does not reproduce
this bric-a-brac as if fresh from the superstore. Instead, each object seems to have
a history. Each object is individualised and bears traces of use and emblems. The
traces: stains, scratches, blots, dust. The emblems: stickers, bumper stickers,
stencilled inscriptions, graffiti. And, traces of emblems: glue from an old sticker that
was removed to be put elsewhere. It all seems to come out of the entropic jumble of
the garage in the basement of that suburban house in Harmony Korine’s film
Gummo. All these things could have been dumped from the road in the inaccessible
and fatal wasteland at the junction of the freeways in J. G. Ballard’s novel Concrete
Island. That is, were they not presented with such sobriety, as if in a second-hand
shop, a backwater thrift store. To heighten the illusion.
At first glance, Oshiro’s exhibitions offer an ensemble of banal objects, modest and
familiar to pretty much all human beings, subject as we nearly all are to the
uniformisation of our everyday visual environment. These objects are usually
unspectacular. Or, on the contrary, they promise a high-volume spectacle, like the
wall of amplifiers blazoned with the logo Marshall, a legendary name from the world
of rock. But then this show is indefinitely delayed. The concert will not happen. The
objects re-produced by Oshiro are mute. Spectacularly mute. Irreducibly silent. They
do not even claim to invite the beholder to accede to some mystery, to a logical
resolution of the reasons for their presence. Except by simply being there, materially
present in the exhibition space. There to talk to us about art. To express the
absolute difference of art via an ironic reformulation of the fundamentals of artistic
The objects offered up by Oshiro to our distracted or inquisitive gaze look like
sculpture, for when we first see them they could plausibly be taken as artefacts or
ready-mades. Their plaques, though, tell us that they are produced by the
techniques of painting. In spite of their object-like appearance, Oshiro’s works are
paintings. Paintings in three dimensions. Or, to define them even more precisely:
sculptural paintings. Or, even better, sculptures constituted by an assemblage of
tableaux and enhanced now and again by some small modelled elements, in order
to complete the likeness. This difficulty in defining the artist’s productions explains
something of their dialectical power: seeming to belong to the general run of objects
produced in abundance by the society of mass consumption, and therefore
endowed, a priori, with only weak symbolic value, they turn out to be so complex
that the definition of their very nature incites us to think about the current realities of
representation and the richness of its reflexivity. This is the first stage in the
definition of the non-deceptive character of the banal objects re-produced by Kaz
Oshiro. This is not a Fender amplifier. This is not a dustbin.
The literality of the non-expressionist object, playing the thousand scales of
variations on Duchamp in a rich mannerism redeployed since the 1960s, is
demolished by the technique brought to bear. Another paradox is that where trompe
l’oeil seemed to have been relegated by the modernist doxa to the category of the
arts and crafts, Oshiro transcends the verticalised division between high and low
and draws on a tremendous mastery of the techniques of illusionist representation
of the grain of material, of the deceptive power of surfaces painted with extreme
precision, in order to edge forward the history of the confusion of painting and
sculpture, transcending the old paragon beloved of the Academy, which consisted
in comparing the respective merits of painting and sculpture. What we have before
us is indeed an updating of pictorial photorealism as sculptural volumes; a new
chapter in the long history of Pop Art, starting from its initially oblique understanding
of the readymade.
When Benjamin Buchloh tried to get him to acknowledge his debt to Duchamp, the
cunning Andy Warhol, an ace at diverting interviews the better to elaborate his
cleverly cultivated self-portrait as superficial artist, claimed with false modesty and
very humorous candour that he knew nothing of this forerunner the readymade, so
as not to have to explain the historical status of his Brillo Box. That the Brillo Box
and its counterpart containers – Kellogg’s, Del Monte, etc. – owe more to the twin
beer cans of Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze (1960), which in appearance represented
a backward step, from Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) to Degas’s bronze copy of the
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1881), changes not a thing. In a pseudo-mechanical
technique, reproducing on the artisanal scale of the Factory the Fordian division of
labour on the production line, in 1964 Warhol initiated what for him was a new way
of using the silkscreen by going from the flatness of the painting to the volumes of
sculpture in the round – for, whatever Arthur Danto may say, the Brillo Box is not just
that, a box of scrubbing pads, but a sculptural volume comprising six pieces of
wood precisely reproducing the dimensions of the cardboard boxes containing Brillo
pads and covered with silk-screened copies of the brand’s packaging graphics. A
trap, therefore. A trap for art historians dead set on finding proof of a logical
sequence in the successive generations of artists – but in that process overlooking
the intrinsic truth of all artistic activity, constituted as it is by breaks in transmission,
deliberate omissions, salutary gaps and strategic ignorance. A trap for aesthetic
theorists hell bent on believing what they see. Allow me then to restate the obvious,
basic fact, namely, that Warhol’s Brillo Box de Warhol is not an everyday consumer
item but the sculptural image of that object – a volumetric representation. Oshiro’s
Fender Maggots is not an amplifier with the name of a rock group stencilled on it,
but an assemblage of canvases on stretchers assembled to form an illusionist
volume. It is the other side that gives the game away: instead of the back cover, the
photorealist, three-dimensional representation of the object reveals a demystifying
void. Everything is apparent, both the materials and the construction process, and,
as in a hypermodern Vanitas, without resorting to the artifices of digital technology,
tells you: all this is merely an illusion, all that is merely art.
Unlike the seventeenth-century Flemish painter Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, who
produced a trompe l’oeil of the back of a painting (the reverse side of the work:
wooden stretcher, untreated canvas, wax seal and label – but now as the front), but
with similar technical mastery, Oshiro leaves the stretchers of his canvases visible at
the back of the sculptures that they form as the result of their meticulous
assemblage, and even reproduces the wear of the hinges and the random join of the
doors of cupboards or microwave ovens. Like him, he places the object on the
ground rather than presenting it on its base, and plays up its possible insignificance.
In order to increase the vertiginous effect of the simulacrum by the apparent
mediocrity of the object, one that is devoid of value, simply left there, in the way.
The explicit Pop heritage that Oshiro invokes by the almost obligatory reference to
Warhol and his Brillo Box, is thus also expressed by the way the works are
displayed. Just as Warhol had fun stacking his boxes on the floor or on a shelf, or
arranging them in modular rows, so Oshiro makes his productions play the game of
the furtive trick. Warhol posed proudly, arms stretched out, like a triumphant boss
amidst the rows of his identical boxes that could potentially be multiplied ad
infinitum. Oshiro prefers to place his three-dimensional images of objects in an even
more subtly deceptive position: rather than hang them in glory, like the works of art
that they are, he places or installs them like the objects and furniture that they
represent. His Trashbin 7- Woodgrain (2004) will thus preferably be positioned near
the entrance to the gallery, or in another modest position where an artwork would
not normally be exhibited. Hence a whole list of stories about fooled visitors who for
example rested their glass of white wine on what they thought was a bin during the
private view of an Oshiro show – stories that illustrate the workings of his art and
confirm its power of illusion.
This is the Zeuxis syndrome, foundation of the theory of art as imitation. The
paradigm offered by Zeuxis, a virtuoso Greek painter of the second half of the fifth
century BCE, and his determination to prove the superiority of art, has been quoted
by philosophers ever since Antiquity in their definition of art’s aesthetic coordinates.
Pliny the Elder relates how, during a painting contest, Zeuxis painted a bunch of
grapes with such a perfect likeness that birds would come and peck at the image.
But Zeuxis, who thought he had ensured the triumph of art by demonstrating its
superiority over nature, was in turn taken in by his adversary, Parrhasios, who now
presented his painting, behind a curtain that Zeuxis asked him to draw. But the
curtain was the painting, one so perfectly reproduced that the illusion fooled even
the painter. Zeuxis acknowledged defeat: he had deceived animals, but Parrhasios
had fooled men. Hegel forgets this second part of the story when he sets out to
demonstrate that the imitation of nature, however perfect it may be, is not enough to
prove the value of an artwork. He relates another well-known story, that of Buttner, a
German naturalist and philologist in the eighteenth century, and his monkey, which
swallowed a natural history print representing a beetle. Monkey business. The
monkey, too, is the artist’s friend, including in the iconographic register of the Simia
Similis, which represented apes as artists and art critics. Aping the world is one of
the functions of painting. As in the case of Hasegawa Tohaku in the Konchi-in
temple in Kyoto, painting a monkey trying to catch the reflection of the moon
(seventeenth century), to represent man’s simian cousin being taken in by an image
is a metaphysical reminder of the relativity of visible things in this world. By tricking
his beholder, Oshiro offers his own take on the bravura works of Zeuxis and
Parrhasios. But, after the postmodern deconstruction of systems of representation
and their testing by the Appropriationist generation of the Metro Pictures School,
this is not a time for repeating their demonstrations. And so he offers the two-way
resolution of the functioning of his visual traps, by revealing their construction and
affirming their artificiality. Oshiro is a Pop Zeuxis.
A Pop Zeuxis with a touch of photorealism from his training with Daniel Douke. The
Kitchen Project (2004-2005) is to Oshiro what the Bedroom Ensemble (1963) was to
Claes Oldenburg: the full-scale, verist reproduction of an environment from ordinary
everyday life in the contemporary world, a reproduction deprived of its use value, an
image placed in space and endowed with a materiality apparently identical to that of
its model. In playing on the contrasting softness and hardness of his materials,
Oldenburg deprived his motel room bed of the slightest potential comfort. Oshiro
suggests that his prefabricated cupboard doors are poorly fitted, teasing the
beholder’s desire to open or straighten them out. The cultural dimension of all his
representations of furniture and objects makes Oshiro a painter of his times and of
America, where he lives. Daniel Douke transferred the generic quality of the
standard logos on Warhol’s Boxes into a specialised world, a garage for cars. What
Oshiro has kept and uses from the world of cars is Bondo, a material made for
repairing body work that he uses in order to model small elements, spare parts, to
complete his replicas.
Oshiro depicts a state of stasis in contemporary American vernacular culture. The
trunks of his Toyota pick-ups are vectors of an infra-cultural language that
expresses the moral state of the United States. Each of the categories of objects
that he represents – belonging to the worlds of rock concert, suburban homes or
fast food restaurants, or to the infra-social sphere of the expression of opinions,
identities and decorative aesthetics on the backs of cars – is precisely located, in
terms of its cultural and spatial coordinates. This is the world of the infinite
expansion of the megalopolis of the Empire, a space of suburbs generically and not
topographically defined by a profusion of cultural markers, involving, among other
things, the emblems of economic activity. An urban space without qualities,
exported to colonised cultures in a sporadic or more permanent way. Like the
afterimage of the dominant culture, in a metaphor of the current dual movement
towards the global standardisation of the everyday visual environment and its
localised Creolisation.
Beyond the infra-cultural status of the objects he represents, Oshiro speaks to us of
art. By playing on references to Minimalism in the form and display of his Tailgates,
which, by the inevitable play of quotations, refer to John McCracken’s Planks,
leaning against the wall. Or again, by endowing the hanging of his hi-fi speakers with
a serial modularity, rising up against the picture walls in a formal echo of Donald
Judd’s columns. Echoing Warholian irony, Oshiro sends Minimalist forms back to
their industrial origins. His use of reference is not deferential: Oshiro is not an
exegete or a disciple of Pop or Minimalism, nor of Neo-Geo or Expressionism. His
practice is an artistic syncretism that assembles several of the important
movements from the art of the last fifty years together in a novel configuration. The
object that inaugurates his body of work is endowed with metonymic value. He
chose an amplifier for electric guitars not only because this object belonged to a
specific environment and to his own experience as a spectator, but also because it
contained, programmatically, by virtue of its modular quality, a potential for
expansion and adaptation in exhibition spaces.
Initiating Oshiro’s visual vocabulary, the emitter of electrified music is thus a visual
metaphor of painting’s power of amplification. An affirmation of painting as an
amplifier of a sensation of the real. An affirmation of the power of art, understood as
a factor for throwing reality into crisis. An affirmation of the power of art, including its
capacity to disrupt the sense of reality; what you see is not what you think you are
seeing. In Hélas pour moi, Godard has his Amphitryon, played by Gérard Depardieu,
say: “What we believe is an image of truth.”
Oshiro’s works are paradoxical objects. They seem to replay the illusionist imitation
of nature, that primary definition of art, by proposing an imitation of material culture,
and then dissociate themselves from this by affirming their own artificiality, the
process of their production, the hybridisation of the techniques of painting and
sculpture with their referents. They are cultural chimeras, informed as much by the
empire of commodities as they are by the spheres of art, the vernacular and
subculture. The imitation practised by Oshiro does not immediately seek to please
or to deceive, nor even to be deceptive: it belongs to a specialist anthropology that
filters contemporary culture through the prism of codes, logos and emblems in order
to inscribe itself in our historical temporality. To Warhol’s statement, that “I don’t
want it to be essentially the same – but exactly the same,” he adds a Tinglish coda:
“same same but different.”
(Translated from French by Charles Penwarden)
Pascal Beausse
Villa Kujoyama, Kyoto, August 2007