Kazu Oshiro Untitled Still Life (Diptych)

Kaz Oshiro Pushing and Folding

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Just over a decade ago, gorgeously pink stacked Marshall speakers stood like photogenic rock stars on an unlike stage that was the Hammer Museum. With only stretched canvases, Bondo, and meticulous paint job, Kaz Oshiro humorously made his mark. Ed Ruscha talked about wanting one type of art over the other: rather Huh? Wow! than Wow! Huh? Oshiro’s sculpted painting belonged to the third, Wow! Wow! category.

For the fans of Oshiro’s masterful trompe l’oeil technique, his new (and recent since 2013) works at Honor Fraser Gallery may be an utter disappointment — how about a Huh? Huh? designation. Gone are Marshall amps and Totyota tailgates, replaced by folded, creased canvases of modest sizes and muted monochromatic color fields; installations so purposeful that an aura of deadly seriousness is almost visible. The letdown, however, is merely a function of nostalgia and familiarity. The new works continue to exhibit precision chops and humor.

Inside the gallery in another room hang polygonal paintings by late Color Field painter Kenneth Noland. Though treated as two separate exhibitions, Noland’s place in history seems to provide a context for Oshiro’s departure from the previous style — an attempt to fold the evolving trajectory of his sculpted paintings into the larger timeline of painting. Solemn and restrained paint quietly reverberates and recedes into the background, pushing sculptural qualities into the spotlight.

Once inspected from uncomfortable angles, carefully constructed stretcher bars hint at Oshiro’s intention. The folding of canvas happens by design and design only, as if to ostensibly acknowledge, but in actuality scoff at the generic, bland aesthetic sensibility and use of one-off materials or peculiar production methods, observed one too many times in works by rising Zombie Formalist stars of the market. Oshiro does not leave abstraction exercise to chance or novelty. Exactness counts; Malcom Gladwell’s The 10,000 Hour Rule even more so.

Resulting creases on Oshiro’s canvases are elegantly sexy, more sensual than contemplative stripes by Barnett Newman or voluptuous, fetishistic painted sculptures of Jennifer Boysen, by way of fashion house JW Anderson’s soft cotton candy long coat walking down a runway. The allure is not unlike the rhythmic pleasure gained from Tim Bavington. Kaz still rocks, rolling with or without his Marshall setup.

Kaz Oshiro’s solo exhibition is currently on view at Honor Fraser until August 27, 2015. It’s a ROCK-N-ROLL-FOR-GROWNUPS.

All images by Elon Schoenholz Photography; courtesy of Honor Fraser Gallery.

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