Kenzi Shiokava

1938, Brazil; lives and works in Los Angeles


Born in Brazil of parents hailing from the Japanese diaspora, Kenzi Shiokava decided to settle in Los Angeles in 1964, after visiting his sister there. Though he intended to become a doctor, he discovered the climate of social protest and civil rights struggle, and identified with a multi-cultural youth eagerly taking charge of its own future. It was when he developed contacts with the African-American neighborhood of Watts, in the explosive setting of the 1965 riots, that he decided to study at the Chouinard Art Institute, then at the Otis Art Institute. Alongside artists like Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge and Betye Saar, he adopted a practice based on the use of found and discarded objects, either natural or issuing from consumer society. In Watts, the accumulation of debris created by the uprising, as found in a devastated urban landscape, took on a special meaning. It involved artists in the idea of a reconstruction, inseparable from that phase of destruction where materials were no longer debris but the essence of the political climate of the day: a collective experience to be healed, scar-like.
For five decades, while he earned his living as a gardener, K. Shiokava’s work would be organized around two sculptural processes: on the one hand, the healing power of the assemblage and, on the other, the ancestral technique of wood carving. At the Halle de la Courrouze, a series of boxes made in the 1990s and 2000s brings to life plastic figurines, Mickey Mouse and various dolls as if arranged in dioramas beside fragmented votive figures and mineral and vegetal elements.
The wooden forms, with their anthropomorphic and totemic look, on view in the Musée des beaux-arts are, for their part, made of railway sleepers and telephone posts, as well as wood and plants collected by the artist in his garden just as they were starting to die, when, according to him they have their highest potential and greatest powers of transition. There ensued a lengthy interaction with the material, aimed at revealing its spiritual essence and inherent presence, bringing forth forms conditioned by its energy and structure. Sometimes made of wood, at others of macramé, at times totems, at others shamans, these silent figures come across like presences celebrating life and death, as well as cultural hybridity, spirituality and rebirth. They are associated with the cycles which both condition the human, and go beyond it.

Angel Kachina, around 2003

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Molding wood and box, painted metal

Courtesy of the artist


Corporate Spirit 2, around 1998

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Pine wood, metal, wires

Courtesy of the artist


L.A. Kachina, around 2003

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Molding wood boxes, paint

Courtesy of the artist


Marga-Yuriko (Warrior Poet), vers 1991

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Wood, macrame, shells beads, metal

Collezione Elena e Filippo Ruffato, Milan


Primal Totem, vers 2000

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Wood

Collezione Elena e Filippo Ruffato, Milan


The Poet, around 1990

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Bamboo beads, sea shells, recycled wood, plastic beads, metal rings, pine wood beads

Courtesy de l’artiste


Untitled, around 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Wooden drawer, doll head, toy figure

Collection Gavin & MacKenzie Stevens


Untitled, around 1993

Halle de la Courrouze

Pine wood, concretion, stainless steel sheet

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1997

Halle de la Courrouze

Doll head, photographs, pine wood (from a door)

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1997

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal box, dried century plant

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1998

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal box, toy figure, plastic

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1998

Halle de la Courrouze

Plastic, toy figures

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1998

Halle de la Courrouze

Lunch box, metal, stone, pillow

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1998

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal, toy figures, doll head

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1999

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal, dried cactus plant, plastic egg

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 1999

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Chicken wire, dragon tree frond, planter

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal, petrified wood

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, vers 2000

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Sea shells, plant fiber, wood, nylon thread, coconut shell, metal, cotton twine

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Metal, rock, toy figure

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Wood box, ceramic head

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, around 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Wood and dried cactus flower

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, unknown date

Halle de la Courrouze

Recycled metal, rocks, found photograph

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, unknown date

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Agave, garden post

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled (Primal Totem Series), around 1986

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Telephone pole wood

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled (Primal Totem Series), around 1995

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Post wood

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled (Shaman series), unknown date

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Glass, shell, yam, pine wood

Courtesy of the artist


Untitled, vers 2000

Halle de la Courrouze

Wooden drawer, doll head, toy figure

Courtesy of the artist


Urban Totem, around 1990

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Old oak wood

Courtesy of the artist