Last Chance for Kaz Oshiro at Charles White Elementary

“What did you discover today?” This is how I conclude my weekly art classes at LACMA’s off-site gallery at Charles White Elementary School. After an hour of making art, the students sit down in the brightly painted space and reflect on what excited them during their art making. “I discovered that I can use stuff like a sponge to make art,” said one student. He was referring to the various materials and tools the kids got to use when they made monoprints (a type of printmaking process), such as stamps, rollers, cotton swabs, and fabric scraps. Every student had a different moment that thrilled them and inspired them to think outside the box, like when they created a new color or made an expressive mark.

Abstract painting using primary colors. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

Abstract painting using primary colors. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

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Student making abstract collage. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

LACMA’s gallery has been a source of joy and excitement for the students at Charles White Elementary School. Over the course of nearly five months, they participated in numerous hands-on art-making activities and collaborations with LACMA staff and Kaz Oshiro, whose work served as a source for inspiration. Every Wednesday morning, the students and I explored themes of experimentation, collaboration, abstraction, and illusion using unexpected materials for making art. They made collages and paintings and learned printmaking techniques, with every project opening new discoveries in using nontraditional materials to make art. After several opportunities to work directly with Oshiro, the kids began to see him as a superstar, recalling how he lifted up what looked to them like a painted dumpster, revealing that it was instead made out of wood and canvas. It was a magical moment finding out that what they perceived to be an everyday object was actually an illusion created by the artist in front of them.

Student painting a canvas in the shape of a dumpster inspired by Oshiro’s piece Dumpster (Yellow with Blue Swoosh), 2010. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

Student painting a canvas in the shape of a dumpster inspired by Oshiro’s piece Dumpster (Yellow with Blue Swoosh), 2010. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

Monoprint made by third-grade student. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

Monoprint made by third-grade student. Photo by Valentina Mogilevskaya

This idea of illusion is a theme in the exhibition Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts. In the gallery you will find the artist’s trompe l’oeil sculptures along with works by Abstract Expressionist masters who inspired him along his journey.  The space embraces the visitor in splashes of every color imaginable, with every object giving us a glimpse into Kaz’s artistic practice. It is so unusual yet so pleasing to see an artist’s work next to that of the kids whom he/she inspired. The level of collaboration in the show, between the artist and the students and the school and the museum, is truly unique. Come see for yourself when the gallery is open to the public for the final day of the exhibition on June 7, 2014, from 12:30 pm to 4 pm, and join in on the collaboration by participating in free art making activities for families.

Valentina Mogilevskaya, Education Assistant

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