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Alumnus Kio Griffith Featured on Artbound

Red Wheelbarrows and Whispering Rainbows: The Sonic and Visual Art of Kio Griffith
Meher McArthur, Artbound

A work by Kio Griffith ('86 Communications Arts) that was recently shown at the Durden and Ray Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley Art Center and currently appears at the Torrance Art Museum in the exhibition "Doppelgänger" (April 2 to May 28, 2016) exemplifies the visual and sound artist’s cross-cultural, mixed media and multi-faceted approach to art. The work "Red Wheelbarrow," constructed from materials including Bakelite, photographic prints, a stainless steel strainer, is an assemblage tribute to William Carlos Williams’ 1962 modernist poem of the same name:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white


Williams, whose parents were from two different cultures, had multiple careers, talents and interests, worked for decades as a physician before becoming one of the most innovative modern American poets. Griffith shares Williams’ bicultural heritage and his abundance of talent and energy, often combining multiple artistic modes and media in his work to create pieces like this “haikussemblage,” as he calls it, a poetic moment assembled from seemingly random objects and drawing from both Japanese traditional verse and modern Western modes of art. Inside his red wheelbarrow, he heaps hundreds of glossy red 4-by-6-inch photo prints and invites visitors to take one each. Holding the cards, which appear “glazed with rain,” visitors participate more intimately in Griffith’s artistic and poetic reference. “I’m playing on the idea of haiku being poetry of the moment. What they’re picking up is slightly after the moment, so there is a sense of the passage of time.”

Griffith, whose mother is Japanese and father is American of Welsh descent, has spent most of his life living between the U.S. and Japan. He studied art at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, and has worked for over 20 years as a graphic artist, designing among other things more than 300 album jackets. Based primarily in Los Angeles, he currently works as a visual and sound artist, graphic designer and producer, and his work -- in drawing, paintings, sound and video, performance, electronics, language, sculpture and installations -- has been shown widely in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Turkey, Belgium and the U.S., and he has performed widely musically, including as the guest composer for the opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also curates several exhibitions a year and is project director at TYPE (Tokyo+Yokohama Projects Exchange), curator and development director at ARTRA and curates regular exhibitions at the Japan Foundation’s Los Angeles office on Wilshire Boulevard. He is also associate editor at Fabrik and Artillery magazines and art director at Angel City Jazz Festival.

Much of Griffith’s work as a visual and sound artist involves research into the specific sonic and visual transformation of history, myth, geographic locations, documentation and time. Using a range of materials and media for his sound sculptures, installations, audio and visual recordings, crowd sourcing, and live performances, he strives to create “new narrative representations that search for clues in which truisms are deconstructed, rearranged and orchestrated into an immersive social experience.” In his series "Revolutions Per Minute," which he began in 2013, he featured a series of 7-inch vinyl records, replacing the original labels with bold social and political commentaries and eradicating the original song to leave rhythmic static recordings. Displayed together as an installation, the records form a display of imagined manifestos of art, political movements and corporations that exert a tremendous impact on our lives and habitat. 


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Image: Kio Griffith, "Red Wheelbarrow," 2016. Haikussemblage (aluminum, foil, photographic prints, Bakelite, cloth tape, acrylic, plant support, strainer). | Photo: Courtesy of the artist.