Somewhere in the crossroad between popular culture, political action and art, Kota Ezawa’s vibrantly coloured, stylized and flat images have been compared by many to a Warhol silkscreen or a South Park cartoon.
Addressing a range of subjects from contemporary culture to the history of art and presenting a variety of formal strategies like abstraction and representation, Kota Ezawa patiently builds his works manually, frame by frame, as a sort of digital approximation of paper-cutout animation.
Instead of filtering his source images through software technology making them look like animations, Kota Ezawa reconstructs them using drawing software. The result is a synthetic representation with a restricted number of colours and barely any details, as “Photo Secession” (based on a known photograph from Alfred Stieglitz) testifies.
“Brawl” (2008), a four-minute-animation-film, follows this information reduction strategy which has become Ezawa’s trademark. Based on a You Tube video showing an infamous 2004 brawl which resulted in the suspension of 9 NBA players, the film emphasizes the artist’s subliminal interest on space issues generated by the transposition of images generated in other medium into the specific language of the animation format.
“Lyam 3 D” (2008), a silent animation based on the seminal Resnais’ film “L’Année dernière à Marienbad”, takes up the challenge of translating the greatness of cinematography language into a camera less technique like animation. Focusing exclusively on the original shots in which the actors remained almost motionless, “Lyam 3D” ends up achieving an intense and unexpected architectural feeling.
Mostly inspired by news of events which have become memorable to all of us, like the “Riefenstahl” and “Schleyer” works, Ezawa seem to stress how the remembrance of the past has become inseparable from our mediated streaming images – from television, newspapers and cinema. Indeed, Ezawa’s stylistic method underlies how the articulation between memory and media is a relatively new and yet undeniable one, sometimes going so far as revealing how the way we generally remember or interpret events is decisively influenced by the media in which they were recorded.
The artist is thus exploring the way we use History and navigate its constructions. “Rocket Test” (2006) for instance, is based on the slide which Colin Powell presented to the UN Security to prove that Saddam Hussein produced weapons of mass destruction. Interestingly, it just happens to be one of his most abstract works.
Describing his own practice as a form of “video archaeology”, Ezawa’s focus on media imagery has a certain liberation feeling to it. Ultimately, Kota Ezawa`s laboriously technique is questioning how – in a media charged culture – historical images prevail in our collective memory making us wonder about its various levels of recognizability and fictionality.
Born in 1969 in Cologne, Kota Ezawa studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, San Francisco Art Institute and Stanford University, and lives and works in San Francisco. His work has been hosted in such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago. He has had solo exhibitions at the St. Louis Art Museum; Hayward Gallery, London; ArtPace, San Antonio; Santa Monica Museum of Art; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford; and Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver.