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Art review: Koki Tanaka at the Box

February 24, 2011 |  6:45 pm

Koki Tanaka_Dog, Bus, Palm Tree_Showing  Objects to a Dog
In this charming show at the Box, L.A. artist Koki Tanaka playfully questions assumptions about art’s place and function. The video, “Showing Objects to a Dog,” is just what it sounds like: Tanaka tries to get the attention of a dog named Shadey by presenting him with several objects made out of cardboard boxes, Styrofoam cups, a bucket and broom, etc. The conceit of course is patently absurd, but it does shine an alternate light on the bizarre constructions we routinely venerate as art, which to Shadey, are either of no interest at all or are simply playthings — he is particularly taken with a stick attached by string to a large ball of tape. Who’s to say whether we have any better use for art?

Another video documents Tanaka’s efforts to sell fallen palm fronds at a flea market. Selling something found everywhere in L.A. that people routinely throw away, the gesture is pure commodification. It’s not a new idea, but it’s entertaining nevertheless to hear a flea market administrator say that she supposes Tanaka’s wares qualify as “used goods” because they were used by a tree.

Koki-Tanaka_Dog,-Bus,-Palm-Tree_The-Box_Install_02 The best pieces in the show document a series of works that the artist made by taking the bus. Using the bike rack on the front of the Metro bus as a traveling gallery, he strapped a painting to his bike, put the bike on the rack and got on the bus. Even better, the painting itself is an image of a painting strapped to a bike on the bike rack of a bus. So while Tanaka is ostensibly using public transit to display and disseminate his work, that work itself is an image of this unconventional system of display. In other hands, this self-referential spiral might seem cynical, but Tanaka’s light, humorous touch maintains a gentle sense of wonder at the absurdity of it all.

-- Sharon Mizota

The Box, 977 Chung King Road, L.A., (213) 625-1747, through March 19. Closed Sundays–Tuesdays. www.theboxla.com

Images: Top: Still from video installation "Showing Objects to a Dog," 2010. Credit: Courtesy of Koki Tanaka, The Box, LA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. Right: Installation view of "Dog, Bus, Palm Tree," at the Box, 2011. Credit: Courtesy of Koki Tanaka and The Box, LA.

Comments () | Archives (9)

this reminds me of that kid on "work of Art"

Thought provoking work, that also entertains. Yummy.

Thought provoking, if one is 7, or a dog.
Some of us live in the real world with responsibilities, commitments and sacrifice for others. Its called maturity. Self expression is for adolescents.

It is time to put aside childish things.
art collegia delenda est

i am sure his parents are proud and happy of their monetary investment in his education. As the only way he could be called an "artist' is if he bought a degree. sheeeesh.

I think most modern art conceptual has come down to being playfully cynical. It here that child element evoked in every single review as something amazing.

It's made me realize the "why" of the divide when it comes between good drawing and conceptual ideas. When the brain that is not educated in advanced drawing skills of traditional realism, it all looks the same. The untrained brain cannot decipher the infinity of subtle painting and feel the wow factor. Thus great painting easily is dismissible as the same old thing.

When the brain that has been well trained in the traditional art disciplines processes conceptual art, it seems like same as just another playful arrangement of objects awaiting political explanation by the critic. Wow factor seems to obvious and easy. Thus the great divide.

Well...while some may call it is "childish"...others might take a second look and question our cultures' often limited perspective of art...responsibility is not just found in painting a pretty picture. It is found in the thought process and exploration of ideas....Take a minute, open your brain and allow for a little exploration of that which you do not understand for on the other side you might find insight and dare I say, pleasure.

It's amazing to me how few art reviews actually discuss the technical skill of the artist. I am really tired of seeing "artists" who can't paint, draw or sculpt, but just throw crap around and call it art.

Once you master painting or sculpting, then go outside and explore the boundaries.

I don't know whether this guy can or not, but I for one am very tired of seeing very poor quality painting done by people who claim to be artists. Learn your craft.

"i am sure his parents are proud and happy of their monetary investment in his education. As the only way he could be called an "artist' is if he bought a degree. sheeeesh."

Does this mean dogs are allowed to go to art school? Maybe there's hope for me yet.
(two barks means yes, one bark means no)

Ideas of what/ how to turn the dog whisperer into art? The self absorbed hedonism of such mindless meanderings is a condemnation of the system that feeds and rewards it.it is creating weakness, not strength of character. All there is today is "pleasure'. And like all such addicts, easily led and deceived.

Artists must learn all fundamentals of art from as many style s as one can as Coltrane and Miles did, to create a foundation upon which to build. And get beyond them, to truly create of what is, of who we are, of where we are going. Creative Art has purpose, This just aint it.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the decadent and souless Ivories

Mara the invocation of the childlike exploration of our culture is not a term invoked by me. Read the reviews, it comes up repeatedly from the reviewers. I assume it’s a code speak for crude and lacking skill. If just painting a pretty picture is easy lets see you do one or any contemporary collage artist who uses found objects. Painting has the ability to house infinite ideas. You are just defensive because so very few can do it well. I find no fresh insight in the repeated use of odds and ends juxtaposed in obvious ways to express the same old absurdist symbolism. It’s a cul-de-sac that that contemporary art has been circling in for 40 years.


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