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Village Voice: Under the Spell of Sculptor Kelly Akashi’s Eerie, Tactile Elegance

Jennifer Krasinski

There is an eerie loveliness, a troubled elegance, to the work of Los Angeles-based artist Kelly Akashi. Insides and outsides are defined, then confused; materials behave as themselves, then pose as something else; objects look familiar, but perform strangely. In other words, she’s a sculptor in the classic California tradition that celebrates eccentricity as a kind of instinctive intelligence. (Akashi completed her MFA at the University of Southern California in 2014; her BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in 2006.) An exhibition at SculptureCenter, her first solo institutional show, is formally tight, conceptually brainy, and materially astute—not to mention appealingly weird.

Art traditionally forbids touch (as in: look, but don’t…); it is principally the territory of vision. Though visitors aren’t allowed or encouraged to meddle with Akashi’s sculptures, the artist offers cerebral encounters with tactility, invoking the hand as a maker of things, and as a thing made. Hands and fingers cast in bronze—her hands and fingers, one presumes—appear throughout. Amputated (loosed, freed) from the body, an appendage becomes yet another object in the world: a shape, a weight, a sign. In Feel Me (all works 2017), a pair of hands is slung across the top of a tall concrete incline, tethered together by a rope. It’s a balancing act: One scales up by its fingertips on one side, anchoring the other which hangs down on the other, the end of the rope wildly frayed beneath it — a cushion against the cold, rough surface of the cement.

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Kelly Akashi, "Feel Me," (2017)