Shio Kusaka | Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, Los Angeles

February 15 – March 7, 2020

More information here

Shio Kusaka
Curated by Douglas Fogle & Hanneke Skerath

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
Public opening: Saturday, February 8, 3-6pm

The historic Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Silver Lake hosts the work of artist Shio Kusaka in a project curated by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. Responding to the unique architectural environment of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles home and workspace, Kusaka quietly populates this iconic example of domestic mid-century modernism with her signature idiosyncratic ceramic vessels, small sculptures of animals, a new set of dinnerware and hand-crafted textile designs inspired by the work of Agnes Martin, Josef Albers and Ellsworth Kelly, respectively. Living and working in Los Angeles for the better part of the past two decades, Kusaka has spent her career subtly subverting the world of ceramics within the field of contemporary art. Enthusiastically embracing imperfections and irregularity in her ceramic-based works, Kusaka has approached her practice with a playful openness that is at once modest yet laced with wry humor.

For her installation at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences Kusaka has given a nod to the phrase “indistinct chatter” that often appears in the subtitles of films and television when voices in the background cannot be identified. Like figures at a cocktail party who quietly chat away in different parts of a home, Kusaka’s pots and sculptures circulate through Neutra’s own domestic environment making their own small talk with both the unique features of the home itself, as well as the visitors to the exhibition. Groups of Kusaka’s older and newly created pots are distributed throughout the shelves, coffee tables and other nooks and crannies of the VDL’s interior.

Kusaka’s ceramic vessels have been defined over the years by the interplay between their slightly imperfect shapes and the geometric but loose patterns that the artist incises or paints on their surfaces. Paying homage to the ordered regularity yet slight imperfections of the works of a painter like Agnes Martin, Kusaka embraces the paradox of a desire for perfection and its all too human impossibility.

Kusaka’s pots are accompanied in the house by a long row of her ceramic animals that will march across the built in bookcase in the VDL’s upstairs living room facing the Silver Lake Reservoir as well as new dinnerware produced at Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara, alongside handmade throws and pillows inspired by the patterns and palettes of Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly and Josef Albers. To complete the indistinct chatter of her installation, Kusaka honors the inside-outside ethos of Neutra’s modernist design principles by presenting planters on the living room and rooftop terraces. Kusaka’s work, with its exquisite attention to the irregular and embrace of the fallibility of the human hand, is an incredible match for the architecture of Richard Neutra who preached about the therapeutic qualities of modern architecture from a psychological and environmental point of view. In different but related ways, both artist and architect embrace the fragility of the human condition and the power of objects to make our lives more joyful. Although mute, her pots and other interventions generate a kind of silent indistinct chatter that harkens back to the heyday of Neutra’s VDL house when it played host to a wide array of artists, architects, writers, filmmakers and musicians.

A publication about the project is forthcoming and will be published by Blum & Poe.

About Shio Kusaka

Shio Kusaka was born in 1972 in Morioka, Japan and lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her B.F.A. in 2001 from the University of Washington, Seattle. Collections include Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH; and Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include the 2014 Whitney Biennial, New York; “Shio Kusaka and Jonas Wood,” Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands (2017-18); and "Shio Kusaka," Gagosian, Rome (2018).

About the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences

Originally constructed in 1932 and 1939 and then rebuilt after a fire in 1965, Richard Neutra's VDL Studio and Residences in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles is an icon of mid-century modern architecture. Originally built with a no-interest loan from Dutch philanthropist Dr. CH Van Der Leeuw, this radical glass house and architecture studio became an important center of modernist design. Neutra's studio launched the careers of many notable architects including Gregory Ain, Raphael Soriano and Donald Wexler and hosted such cultural luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright, László Moholy-Nagy, Jørn Utzon, Charles and Ray Eames; religious figures like Robert Schuller and J. Krishnamurti; scientists like René Dubos and Linus Pauling; and to political figures and activists like John Anson Ford, Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. 

In 2017 the Neutra VDL House was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Today the house is under the stewardship of the College of Environmental Design (ENV) and Department of Architecture (CPP ARC) at Cal Poly Pomona and is led by its resident director Professor Sarah Lorenzen who also oversees its cultural and educational programming. 

About the curators

Douglas Fogle spent over twenty years as a curator of contemporary art at Walker Art Center, Carnegie Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum. In 2012, he joined forces with independent curator Hanneke Skerath to open the curatorial office STUDIO LBV in Los Angeles. Together they curate exhibitions, organize talks, and produce publications.

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