German-Japanese-American, b. 1969
Lives and works in San Francisco, California
and Berlin, Germany
Kota Ezawa’s work explores the appropriation and mediation of current events and images. He translates found film, video, and photographic images into drawings and animations that reduce complex imagery to its most essential, two-dimensional elements in order to debate their validity as mediators of actual historical events and personal experiences.
Ezawa’s latest body of work re-examines the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Garnder Museum in 1990. In his signature style, Ezawa deftly re-imagines the original images of the thirteen stolen pieces, including artworks and objects by Degas, Manet, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. Reflecting on his new body of work he states, “My prior drawings exclusively used photographs as source material. This series for the first time draws upon painting only to recognize that painters before 1850, like Rembrandt and Vermeer, were essentially the photographers of their time. In the absence of photographs, their paintings take on the task of recording reality with the scrutiny and minuteness that we now expect from cameras. In this way, the new series extends my project ‘The History of Photography Remix’ into the pre-photography age of images. In addition, I feel compelled to produce an exhibition dealing with ‘stolen art works’ because my own process could be regarded as a form of image theft. One could say I’m hoping to steal these images back and give them a new life.”
Ezawa’s work has been showcased in solo exhibitions at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT (2005); Artpace, San Antonio, TX (2006); Madison Square Park, New York, NY (2011); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2013); Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (2015); Mead Art Museum, Amherst, MA (2017), and SITE Santa Fe (2017); as well as group exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (2005); Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2005); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2006); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2008); Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, Australia (2010); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (2010, 2016); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (2011); the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (2013); Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany (2016); and Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA (2017). He is a participating artist in the 2019 Whitney Biennial.
Ezawa received a SECA Art Award in 2006 and a Eureka Fellowship in 2010. His work has been acquired by institutions such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, CA; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.