Broadcasts: Shio Kusaka at Neutra VDL Studio and Residences

This winter the historic Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Silver Lake hosted the work of artist Shio Kusaka in a project curated by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. Responding to the unique architectural environment of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles home and workspace, Kusaka quietly populated this iconic example of domestic mid-century modernism with her signature idiosyncratic ceramic vessels, small sculptures of animals, a new set of dinnerware and hand-crafted textile designs. Living and working in Los Angeles for the better part of the past two decades, Kusaka has spent her career subtly subverting the world of ceramics within the field of contemporary art. Enthusiastically embracing imperfections and irregularity in her ceramic-based works, Kusaka has approached her practice with a playful openness that is at once modest yet laced with wry humor.

Due to the current crisis the exhibition was closed to the public prior to the conclusion of its run. Blum & Poe Broadcasts presents a visual walk through of the project moving through the Neutra VDL house from its downstairs garden and offices through its living spaces, kitchen, bedrooms, solarium and rooftop terrace.

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Installation view, 2020, photo: Wood Kusaka Studios
Installation view, 2020, photo: David Hartwell
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder

For her installation at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences Kusaka has given a nod to the phrase “indistinct chatter” that often appears in the subtitles of films and television when voices in the background cannot be identified. Like figures at a cocktail party who quietly chat away in different parts of a home, Kusaka’s pots and sculptures circulated through Neutra’s own domestic environment making their own small talk with both the unique features of the home itself, as well as the visitors to the exhibition.

Kusaka’s ceramic vessels have been defined over the years by the interplay between their slightly imperfect shapes and the geometric but loose patterns that the artist incises or paints on their surfaces. Paying homage to the ordered regularity yet slight imperfections of the works of a painter like Agnes Martin, Kusaka embraces the paradox of a desire for perfection and its all too human impossibility.

Installation view, 2020, photo: David Hartwell
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder

A long row of her ceramic animals marched across the built-in bookcase in the VDL’s upstairs living room facing the Silver Lake reservoir. A new line of dinnerware produced at Ceramica Suro in Guadalajara graced the kitchen dining table while handmade throws and pillows inspired by the patterns and palettes of Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly and Josef Albers poulated Neutra’s built-in couches and beds.

Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: David Hartwell
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder

To complete the indistinct chatter of her installation, Kusaka honored the inside-outside ethos of Neutra’s modernist design principles by producing planters which were installed on the living room and rooftop terraces.

Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder
Installation view, 2020, photo: Marten Elder

Kusaka’s work, with its exquisite attention to the irregular and embrace of the fallibility of the human hand, is an incredible match for the architecture of Richard Neutra who preached about the therapeutic qualities of modern architecture from a psychological and environmental point of view. In different but related ways both artist and architect embrace the fragility of the human condition and the power of objects to make our lives more joyful. Although mute, her pots and other interventions generate a kind of silent indistinct chatter that harkens back to the heyday of Neutra’s VDL house when it played host to a wide array of artists, architects, writers, filmmakers and musicians.

Text by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath 

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Blum & Poe Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo will temporarily close to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17 until further notice. Learn more.