- Opening Reception: February 12th 2011, 6-9pm
When a gallery visitor enters the space of Koki Tanaka’s seminal exhibition at The Box (first solo exhibition in Los Angeles), there will be a question of which direction to move in. This disorientation is part of Tanaka’s interest in encouraging the viewer to question their beliefs about how and where art is shown. Through interactions with animals and the general population, Koki Tanaka encourages us to re-think our limitations on our understanding of art and the art world.
The work of Koki Tanaka is a playful exploration of how we live and how we understand the objects and events that surround us. Three of the works: A painting to public (Metro Bus Line 2, Los Angeles), A painting to public (SamTrans Bus Line 292, San Francisco), and Someone’s junk is someone else’s treasure, all made in 2011, use established public systems like public buses and Flea Markets, to display his work and reflect his ideas. In the first two of these pieces he tied his paintings to his bike and put it on the bike rack of a public bus. So instead of the paintings being placed in a gallery, they were placed in a public sphere, allowing those on the street and driving in cars to see the paintings. The people seeing this work are a larger and more diverse public then might walk into the gallery. The other piece, Someone’s junk is someone else’s treasure, used the public Flea Markets to sell old palm fronds. The Flea Market is a means for the general public to sell collected used items, handmade items and antiques. The market environment feels very much like an art fair, where goods are bought and sold with bargaining practices. While Tanaka was using this market as a metaphor to explore Americans’ obsession with material objects, he starts to think of this situation in a new way. He begins to understand that maybe he isn’t just selling old palm fronds he is selling the odd experience of buying a palm frond from a vendor. Because the experience of buying palm fronds is ironical in Los Angeles considering they line the trash cans it will also provide one with some comedic relief.
The third major work in the upstairs gallery is titled: Showing objects to a dog, 2010. This work took place when Tanaka was asked to care for his friend’s dog, Shadey. In the video component of this work the artist presented his art objects assembled with everyday objects, to the dog and captured the dog’s inquisitive reactions. The dog sometimes responded with a bounce of play and sometimes completely ignored the presentation, either way there is an attempt to communicate and share work with Shadey. Through this process one starts to wonder about how we “see” sculpture and encourages us to question our own gut reactions to work in the same way we try and understand the reaction of the dog. As part of this work the artist also created a wooden structure of confusion in the gallery that complicates how the gallery visitor is able to interact with the space and the work within it. This again goes back to this idea of questioning our beliefs and instincts, because the wooden structure physically resembles a maze that is meant to create disorientation and the objects that were presented to the are presented here for the viewer to contemplate while seemingly acting as lures within the maze.
Koki Tanaka originally from Japan is currently living and working in Los Angeles. He recently has had solo exhibitions at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, YYZ Artists Outlet in Toronto, Canada and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, China. He also recently had groups show at Las Cienegas Projects (Los Angels) and Artspace , Auckland, New Zealand. He is part of Zoe Gray’s “Making is Thinking” at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands.