about the exhibition
San Francisco, CA
July 27–October 15, 2006about the artist
Kota Ezawa re-presents iconic moments from the media and the history of photography in animated videos, slide projections, lightboxes, and prints. Each project graphically reduces source material such as a 1930s crime scene captured by infamous news photographer Weegee or the memorable on-screen terror of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to explore the mutable role of the camera and photograph in the reception and understanding of reality.
Ezawa’s schematic renderings, realized through hand-tracing and computer manipulation, stage a critique of photography without actually presenting it. The resulting cartoon-like representations focus on human details, such as lips or eyes, while sky or clothing remains undistinguished. Ezawa’s simplified versions of photographs, which are themselves already subjective takes on the real, paradoxically amplify emotive content and create a hyper-real.
Based in San Francisco, CA, Kota Ezawa was born in Cologne, Germany in 1969. He received his MFA from Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, in 2003. He was featured in a solo exhibition at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT (2005) and been included in group shows at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2006); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (2005); and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2005).
about the exhibition
The History of Photography Remix (2005), a slide show of seminal pictures transformed by Ezawa’s signature style, is the source material for a number of projects included in the exhibition. Spanning more than a century of images culled from newspapers, magazines, and museum walls, the project explores the way that everything from science to journalism to fine art to television news uses photography to manufacture the hyper-real. The sequence includes an 1895 x-ray, a 1952 UFO sighting, a Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still from 1978, a 1996 media snapshot of JonBenet Ramsey, as well as many others. Remix’s appropriations engage photography in a critical discourse about its ability to (falsely) suggest the real.
This material has been translated into lightboxes and aquatint etchings that further develop the relationship between source and reality. Kota (2006), a print, presents an historic and ubiquitous use of photography: the self-portrait. The artist directly addresses the viewer with his black eyes, recalling the complex relationship between camera and sitter and challenging the photographer’s control over the frame, and thereby the slice of time.
The Simpson Verdict (2002) is a three-minute video animation of the highly broadcasted trial. Actual voices find Simpson innocent while the drawn footage re-codes the viewer’s distance to the material. The camera pans a faceless crowd and pauses on reflective expressions of the judge and Simpson, whose pupils shift heavily back and forth as he learns his fate. Ezawa’s revision humanizes the moment by removing the television-generated spectacle.
The three-channel animated projection Lennon Sontag Beuys (2004) suggests that the photographic’s power to imply reality, and the societal thirst for it, can be harnessed as an agent for positive change. Three artists/celebrities speak simultaneously about the possibility of images, using the camera’s attention to promote social awareness.
Kota Ezawa re-presents historical footage and photos to investigate photography’s unsettled relationship to its framing devices—to the lens, the viewer, art, and history.
Curator of Education and Exhibitions