Most of Kenzi Shiokava’s sculptures consist of organic matter, like bark and dragon-tree fronds, combined with found materials, such as chicken wire or brooms. In Untitled (Urban Totem Series), 2000, an upright railroad tie narrows into two sharp prongs at the top. Of a similar shape, Untitled (Urban Totem Series), 2005, was carved from a discarded telephone pole. Each sculpture resembles a statuesque humanoid form.
“For any discarded material that has gone through the process of history and humanization [there] is the potential of presence,” Shiokava wrote for the wall text. Such histories are often violent. Here, his association with other assemblage artists from 1960s Los Angeles—Noah Purifoy, for example, who used debris from the Watts riots in his work—is most pertinent, as Shiokava’s repurposed urban materials are similarly called to represent their past uses and circulation, in addition to the people and communities involved in their transformations.
Spiritual Material: A Survey of Work by Kenzi Shiokava is currently on view at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design until April 20, 2019.
Video and Image: Fawad Assadullah