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Kota Ezawa
american, born germany
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Cologne, Germany
Kota Ezawa’s work references images in popular culture, cinema, television and art history. Through such media as digital animation, slide projections, etchings, paper cut-outs, watercolor, light boxes and collage, he distills these iconic images to their most essential form using flat, simple and colorful forms. By doing so, his work communicates the symbolic power these images have on the collective psyche and underscores a keen understanding of how images shape our experience and memory of events. Born in Cologne, Germany in 1969, his mother was German and his father was Japanese. Ezawa grew up in Mössingen, near Stuttgart. He attended the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1990 to 1994, where he studied under Nan Hoover (1931-2008), who had previously taught at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), and Nam June Paik (1932-2006). Awarded a German government scholarship, Ezawa moved to San Francisco in 1994, where he studied at the SFAI under Nayland Blake (b. 1960) and others and earned a B.F.A. degree in 1995. He earned a M.F.A. degree from Stanford University in 2003. Ezawa’s signature style first became well-known with “The Simpson Verdict,” a three-minute animated video done in 2002 based on the video of the reading of the verdict in O. J. Simpson’s (b. 1947) notorious murder trial. It was followed in 2003 by “Who’s Afraid of Black, White and Grey,” based on scenes from the 1966 black-and-white movie, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Ezawa’s work was shown in 2003 in his first solo exhibition at San Francisco’s Haines Gallery, a gallery that continues to represent him. He ventured into printmaking in 2006, when he created color aquatint etchings with the Paulson Press in Berkeley, and again in 2009. His work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions, including museum shows at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (2015); Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2013); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2013); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2009); Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2007); Artpace, San Antonio, TX (2006); and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (2005). He has been included in group shows at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (2016); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2016 and 2010); Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany (2015); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2013); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2013); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (2011); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006) and the Musée d’ Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2005). Ezawa has received numerous awards, including the Lamar Dodd Professorial Chair, Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia (2014), a Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation, San Francisco (2010), the 2006 SECA Art Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003). In addition to San Francisco’s Haines Gallery, Ezawa is represented by the Murray Guy Gallery in New York City and the Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica. He serves as an Associate Professor of Film and of Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco. Ezawa lives and works in San Francisco and Berlin. (TNB 5/2017) Selected bibliography: Lewallen, Constance. “In Conversation: Kota Ezawa with Constance Lewallen,” The Brooklyn Rail, September 12, 2008. Smith, John. “From Fame to Form and Pop to Hop: Kota Ezawa and John Smith in Conversation,” Camerawork, vol. 32, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2005) pp. 4-15