until 08.01. | #3217ARTatBerlin | 68 projects shows from 6th November 2021 the exhibition OPUS III with works by the artist Kota Ezawa.
OPUS is an exhibition project by German/Japanese/American artist Kota Ezawa with stops in New York, Frankfurt, and Berlin. His works in OPUS III, installations, video projections, watercolours, light boxes, and wall-mounted spatial installations reflect, on isolation and participation, loneliness and separation, as well as on war and peace and their direct and indirect effects on people, buildings, and spaces.
Kota Ezawa is known for translating and reinterpreting documentary footage – news, film clips, works by other artists, and images stored in our memory – into watercolour animations. Events of historical significance stand on an equal footing with moments of pop culture. Transposed into two-dimensional, literally flat images, Ezawa’s works condense complex visual information into basic elements. Described by the artist as “animated paintings”, they combine a handicraft aesthetic with visual language borrowed from comics and pop art.
“THERISEANDFALLOFTHEBERLINWALL” is a video projection on a wall made out of concrete blocks spanning an arc from the construction of the Berlin Wall in the summer of 1961 to its fall in the autumn of 1989, accompanied by four watercolours showing people celebrating on top of the wall in November of the same year.
Ezawa’s projection draws on images from old newsreels and television news, turning them into watercolours, which are then animated and, with the help of a soundtrack, woven into a compressed narrative. Black-and-white images of the wall’s construction in 1961 are accompanied by Joseph Haydn’s Opus 76 No. 3, Germany’s national anthem. The solemn melody is juxtaposed with pictures of barbed wire, military patrols, and East Berliners’ attempts to flee to the West. The fall of the Berlin Wall 28 years later is shown in colourful images, the soundtrack now featuring a sample from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1” as well as triumphant cheering, chanting, and the clinking of the chisels gradually dismantling the wall that had hitherto seemed insurmountable. Peacefully won freedom triumphs over state violence and oppression.
Using a wide landscape panorama, the light box “Border Wall Prototypes” shows various prototypes for Donald Trump’s border wall separating the United States from its southern neighbour Mexico – the visual parallels with the Berlin Wall are undeniable. In May 2021, Trump’s successor Joe Biden put the project on hold, which is why Ezawa’s prototype walls remain unfinished, patchy, erected only for illustrative purposes.
“Kabul”, by contrast, takes a close-up view of the wall surrounding Kabul airport, an almost insurmountable obstacle. Several people – a child among them – attempt to climb the wall. It is not clear if their escape from the Taliban-ruled country will succeed – as we now know, since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, reaching Kabul airport is no longer a guarantee for salvation.
Kota Ezawa’s expansive installation “Merzbau”, which combines wallpaper with several light boxes, can be read as an examination of the virtual walls we have been erecting since the outbreak of the Coronavirus: the shunning of personal contact, the mistrust of strangers, the retreat into the private sphere. The underlying images and title of the work derive from an installation of the same name by Kurt Schwitters, which the German artist began in his studio in 1923 and which by 1937 had spread throughout his whole flat and its adjoining rooms in Hanover. Schwitters’ “Merzbau” was destroyed during allied air raids in 1943 – and although a reconstruction of the installation is part of the collection of the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, the artwork itself no longer exists, only a handful of photographs and reconstructions remain. Yet the shadow, or ghost, that is resurrected in Kota Ezawa’s installation must also ultimately remain two-dimensional.
According to Ezawa, the works in OPUS “tell a story of building, construction, loss, and destruction”: “While focusing on events that took place in one country over the span of 66 years, these depictions serve as universal symbols of the past, present, and future of border walls and avant-garde art.”
Kota Ezawa (*1969 in Cologne) studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the San Francisco Art Institute before receiving an M. F. A. from Stanford University. His works have been featured in numerous exhibitions, including the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens (2021), the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid (2017), the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk (2015), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2012), and the St. Louis Art Museum (2008). Kota Ezawa’s works can be found in important collections such as the MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art (all in New York), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, or the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, as well as the Musée d’art contemporain in Montréal, the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, and the Netherlands Institute for Media Art.
OPUS I Ryan Lee Gallery, New York
OPUS II Anita Beckers Galerie, Frankfurt am Main
OPUS III 68projects by Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin
Vernissage: Saturday, 6. November 2021, noon – 8:00 pm
Exhibition period: Saturday, 6th November 2021 – Saturday, 8th January 2022To the gallery
Exhibition Kota Ezawa – 68 projects | Zeitgenössische Kunst Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin