Reception for pop culture artist held at Kaneko Gallery


Inoa Spyres (left) and Salina Herrera-Spyres (right) observe art by Kathy Aoki at the James Kaneko Gallery on March 3, 2016. (Photo by Hannah Darden)

Hannah Darden

The James Kaneko Gallery at American River College welcomed artist Kathy Aoki for an artist reception on Thursday.

Aoki, whose art is in permanent collections in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Harvard University art museums, and the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, is known for her incorporation of pop culture and humor into her art.

Aoki’s “Selections from the Museum of Historical Makeovers” is currently on display at the Kaneko gallery until Mar. 9.

“Selections from the Museum of Historical Makeovers” is set in the year 3016, and features a mix of illustrations, paintings, video, pottery and performance to create a cohesive collection.

Aoki gave a performance during the reception as the curator of the Museum of Historical Makeovers, in which she talked about the background behind the art and told stories to enrich the art’s meanings.

The collection features the “Gwen Stefani Grand Burial Exhibition,” which looks back in time at the burial of “Pharaoh Stefani” and includes video, artifacts such as canopic jars and a recreation of her tomb.

The illustrations and paintings are a humorous look at modern beauty routines, including a forest where all of the trees are mascara brushes, and a technical illustration of a lower back tattoo.

Aoki said her inspiration came partly from technical illustrations she saw in a museum of technology during an artist residency in Paris.

“The first two pieces are fake technical illustrations… it’s part of an experience that presents importance to something that doesn’t deserve it,” Aoki said. “In 2009, after I realized I was making fake museum work, that’s where (The Museum of Historical Makeovers) started.”

Art gallery attendees, like ARC art student Inoa Spyres, paid special attention to the illustrations.

“I like all the almost medical-looking illustrations of beauty routines,” Spyres said.

Salina Herrera-Spyres, Spyres’ mother, agreed.

“It’s cheeky, but it’s a comment on how arcane the things we do to ourselves are,” Herrera-Spyres said. “It’s very clever.”

Aoki said she likes to reference pop culture and art history because it makes viewers feel more comfortable in the gallery.

“(The collection) feels familiar, it’s not intimidating,” Aoki said.

The collection also features audio guides, which can be accessed by dialing the phone number and extension written on the label next to each piece of art.