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Paper on Plastic

19/11 2011 – 23/12 2011


Mendes Wood is pleased to announce Paper on Plastic, Kota Ezawa’s first exhibition in Brazil. The gallery will present the artist’s most recent animated films City of Nature and Beatles Über California from 2010 and 2011.

In Paper or Plastic, Ezawa presents a body of 39 collages, the subject matter of which spans nearly a decade of the artist’s interest – including the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the OJ Simpson trial, the Battleship Potemkin, and Alain Resnais’ The Last Year at Marienbad. In a second room, Kota will present recent digital animations and lightboxes.

Kota Ezawa translates iconic moments from photography and film history into animations that are reminiscent of the pop aesthetic of South Park cartoons. The artist’s work draws from the fact that history is nowadays usually communicated via media and is transferred into collective memory through images from news broadcasts. He subsequently employs elements from popular culture in his works, as well as well-known film citations such as the rendition of judgment in the lawsuit against O.J. Simpson, Last Year At Marienbad by Alain Resnais, or the amateur film of the murder of US president John F. Kennedy. For his animations, Ezawa painstainkingly reconstructs every single shot, using a graphic program in a kind of digital ”silhouette technique”. He limits himself to an elementary spectrum of colors and supplements the films with the original soundtrack or new sound material, which forms a contrast to the images. The tension-filled impact of his works arises from the disparity between the visual and auditory perception.

The animation film City of Nature was conceived in 2011 as a site-specific video installation for Madison Square Park in New York and reflects on the relationship between nature, humankind and film. The video is a collage comprising 70 nature shots that have been drawn from 20 different feature films, including Brokeback Mountain, The Old Man and the Sea, Twin Peaks and Fitzcarraldo. The individual clips fit together to form an abstract narration while the dramatic film soundtracks lend the fragments an atmospheric density. This is contrasted with the abstract representation of landscapes that have similarities with the design of a computer game. The viewer follows an entire day from daybreak to moonrise. These moments merge to form a constantly recurring cycle.

In his work Beatles Über California, Ezawa combines the film material from a Twist and Shout performance by the Beatles from 1964 with the sound of California Über Alles by the Dead Kennedys. The recording of the Beatles performance in the Ed Sullivan Show has been edited, animated and set synchronously to music, so that the musicians appear to be performing to a playback of the Californian punk band. The dissonance between the popular-naive pictures and the aggressive sound lends the Beatles performance an subversive undertone.

The artist’s characteristic style reduces the physical and psychological expression of the protagonists to a minimum. As a result, the banality of the source material used by Ezawa is made a central theme, which has been deprived of its aura by excessive reproduction and visibility in the media. His video archaeology, produced by hand, reverses this development and at the same time questions the relationship between reality and reproduction.

Kota Ezawa was born in 1969 in Cologne and studied from 1990 to 1994 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He then moved to the San Francisco Institute of Art and completed his MFA in 2003 at Stanford University. His works have been shown at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2005), the Museum of Modern Art (2006), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (2006) and Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008) in New York, and the Hayward Gallery in London (2007). Kota Ezawa lives and works in Berlin and San Francisco.

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