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Summers in the art world consist largely of casual group shows often resembling the staged spreads of a design catalog. Unlike the action-packed movie blockbusters released during these months, galleries tend to provide the public with the equivalent of a lucid romantic comedy (or horror flick). Shio Kusaka, however, has ironically conceived and created a slick summer blockbuster in her current exhibition at Blum & Poe, clustered with artworks that, upon first glance, look like they could be at home in any chic living room shoot.
Kusaka has managed to direct and produce a sharply focused line of inquiry with a generally whimsical vibe. Walking clockwise through the gallery, the arc begins with a cool breeze—glazed and painted ceramic watermelons and beach balls. All of the works on view sit upon conjoined wooden plinths, the tops of which are finished in an airy cotton candy pink. Sloppy yet soothing grids, fervent patterns, and illusionistic illustrations of wood grain are all applied onto her multitudinous forms with equal aptitude. Kusaka cleverly introduces the next room with stark white functionality, followed by a marching line of cutesy animal figurines, and concludes with elegant stand-alone items that appear perfectly preserved from another era.
Free of cluttered wall space and industry prattle, the deliberate placement of such exquisite objects forces typically taboo words like “cute” or “clever” to seem frivolous, and the distinctions between “fine art” and anything else to seem inconsequential. Given the current level of social and political unrest, the question “What can art actually do?” begs to be answered. In the final room, Kusaka’s sleek stoneware piece depicting a brutal, bloody dinosaur battle, soaked and scarred into the surface, climactically proposes, “Whatever you want it to do.”
Shio Kusaka runs from July 2–August 20, 2016 at Blum & Poe (2727 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90034).