kozyndan, The Golden State
Gregorio Escalante Gallery
By Genie Davis
Through September 17th
The Golden State, at Gregorio Escalante gallery in Chinatown through September 17th, is a beautiful, fanciful, and poetic series of works by the duo of kozyndan. The two artists, husband and wife team Kozy and Dan, have shaped a work that pays tribute to their home state, California, and to the “golden” values they assert are necessary to make the world a much better place. It is also, both stylistically and in terms of its creative force, a tribute to Kozy’s birthplace, Japan.
While unintended when the exhibition was launched, both the title of the exhibition and the body of work it contains also pay tribute to the late gallerist Greg Escalante himself with his adventurous artistic nature, his support of the visual arts, and his passionate enrichment of the community.
In the main gallery, artwork is presented on Japanese art scrolls, boards, and screens. Delicate, beautifully wrought images merge California subjects with the Japanese Nihonga painting, the traditional, illustrative, Japanese painting style. In “Coyote Street Gang (The Best Google Street View Ever),” a recognizable Los Angeles street – Silver Lake perhaps, or Highland Park – features a blue car and 3 coyotes, one perched howling on its roof; “Kitties and Kush” presents two gorgeous cats and a cannabis plant. Both are painted on scrolls. Painted on board is the magical landscape of “Super Bloom” with its fields and hills of wildflowers, a path winding through it, and to one side, a nude figure, arms raised in seeming supplication or a cry for help or attention. Beautiful animal paintings, such as “RIP Puffin” which presents two lovely hens, are joined by several large-scale ceramic and rope sculptures, with each bead lustrous and weighty, about the size of a baseball. There are also ceramic sculptures on plexiglass platters, “Wasabi Wabisabi #1, #2, #3,” each the most luscious of sushi jewels.
In the gallery’s basement, another exhibition of kozyndan’s work creates a marvelous miniature wonderland. The group of sculptures here are playful ceramics, some glazed in gold, some Raku fired. Set within miniature plant forests, these are whimsical, entrancing creatures, bunnies and snails, cats and cows, some circling crystals and gemstones, some surrounded by succulents. It’s both an entire world and a series of individual, entirely charming pieces in different colors, shapes, and textures. “Heer” could be a blue, grey, and brown speckled cow or deer; the opalescent “Imaginus” is all cat. There are more than a hundred of these ceramic creatures in all, set in a world that is part other-planet and part terrarium.
Past shows by kozyndan have been equally fanciful, but the subjects have been less warm. With their anime robots, the artists are creating a new approach, one that is pastoral and wistful, a way to create a more idealized world than the one in which we are presently living. The Golden State refers not just to California, but to a state of mind, a zen-like state of being. It also refers to the “golden” artistic perfection of traditional Japanese art and Japanese culture – a gentler, more community-aware and inclusive lifestyle, and a finely wrought, carefully detailed commitment to the creation of the art itself. Scrolls, brushes, and paints crafted from minerals are all Japanese.
With both sculpture and painted scrolls and screens, kozyndan have created a wonderful mix of iconic Californian and Japanese images, fantastical and endearing creatures, and loving tributes to animals – all in a pure and poignant, hopeful and magical Japanese style. A fitting show for the last exhibition with the gallery’s eponymous owner at the helm.