Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kenzo says you might as well dance

A Q&A with designer Kenzo MinamiKENZOMINAMI.PORTRAIT.ACE2010(C2_Small2)
I met Kenzo Minami awhile back at a party at B.East. He was dj-ing at the party and I liked his energy and overall vibe. Later I learned that dj-ing was just a small part of what he's about. Kenzo is a majorly accomplished artist/designer and the more I learned about him the more intrigued I became: he has been commissioned to do work by a variety of companies from Mercedes-Benz to Converse to the Tribeca Grand Hotel. He's also had both solo and group shows and in 2007 was chosen as one of 35 people for “Johnnie Walker Blue Label Celebrates 35 Under 35” which was designed to celebrate the brightest young minds across a broad cross-section of disciplines including artists, writers, music executives, comedians and designers. Oh! And he also designs t-shirts that are sold at one of my favorite NYC boutiques Seven! So I'm psyched that he took the time to answer a few questions for me and that in turn I can introduce him to those of you unfamiliar with his work.
(click below!)

 If people ask you the question “What do you do?” how do you answer?
Graphic Designer?

WSOGMM1 - Kenzo's piece for Exit Art
What are you currently working on?
I have work in the upcoming show/benefit for Exit Art Gallery on June 7th. It's with an amazing collection of artists including Nan Goldin, Yoko Ono, Bill Viola, Swoon, among others and Special Guest Host Michael Douglas.
In addition I'm working on multiple pieces for other shows. And I really have to update my website and finally planning to start on that as the next top priority.

You've also done work recently for the ACE Hotel, which is one of my favorites in New York. How did you get involved in creating work for them?
It goes back to long before the one in Portland was opened, and one of the very first solo project I did years ago when I was still mainly doing broadcast stuff.  When I did the a few projects with Nike in 2003, I met Alex Calderwood (who eventually opened Ace Hotel) who was involved in the projects through the agency Neverstop back then. When he opened Ace Hotel in Portland, they contacted me if I would do a mural for it - and I did.  And when they opened one in New York, we talked about doing another one for it also - and 2 years had ended up passed till I did one this past March.  

Turbine of Life mural
Can you tell me a little bit about the mural / your thoughts behind it?
Yes, it's called Turbine of Life. I went through a very stoic or almost bland period creatively, dealing solely on academic or meta level themes (about creation and process of the pieces themselves, what it is to graphically construct, or regarding where we are in our visual culture). Then I snapped out of it and went for something more emotional, positive, and in the direction of "Forward" as oppose to everything being in retrospect or in comparison or referenced.  So this was the piece I was picturing: this turbine, springing out all these lives and living organisms.  This in my head was about the nature as organic based machinery but also about human scientific attempt to reboot the nature. 

You seem to have successfully created your own career path/avoided a corporate route. How did you manage that?
I don't think I necessarily "avoided" the corporate route - I think (and would like to think) that I had a healthy and balanced relationships with corporate projects and essentially corporate clients.  As much as I was very specific and careful of the tone I was setting and balancing between art and commerce, I was also fortunate to work with people who really wanted to do something cool in the world of advertising or corporate media and gave me a freedom.  And as much as I had freedom and fortunate environment to work within, I think I consider myself as a designer rather than artist and I do definitely come from design back ground (I studied industrial design and started my career as a set designer) - so I never had any emotional or artistic conflict with potential restricted condition I could had been working with (even though I cannot say that I experience too much of it, as I mentioned), and I think this created the condition of mutual respect and understanding of creative territories.  

And regarding creating my own career path - again, I was very careful of every move I was making and really pondered  every step I was taking and tried to make sense of the whole. It was a balancing act of so many different elements, but at the same time, there was no way of me doing what I was trying to do if it wasn't for all these people who gave me chances and opportunities.  So I am not sure how much of my career path I "created" on my end even though I did try my best to be on top of it and it has progressed in the way that I intended it to and hoped it to - There are so many people I owe my career to and should give credits to. 

Okay, and now some easy questions! What are you looking forward to in 2010?
The summer!

What are your top 3 favorite places to go out in NYC?
I really don't go out to particular places anymore except a few coffee shops when I take a break. Blue Bird Coffee Shop on East First Street, Gimme Coffee on Mott street, And La Colombe on Lafayette street. I really wish that they would open an hour or two longer (if not whole night) - they all close around 6 p.m. or something, and I often miss them by the time I step out of my studio.

What music are you currently listening to?
Alton Ellis. Aphrodite's Child. Nick Drake. John Cale. Susumu Hirasawa  Young Marble Giants. Van Morrison. Bob Dylan. The Blue Hearts. Soutaiseiriron. Nino Rota. Boz Scaggs


Are you still dj-ing?
Not at the moment.

Best advice you’ve ever given or received?
Not the advice I received personally, but after all the pondering and agonizing, I reached the point in my life that I generally try to live by these 2 quotes and sayings. One is "You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred." by Woody Allen. And the other, which sort of came as a surprise to me is this very common and old Japanese saying "We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance." I never payed attention to it until I saw the English translated version - which puts it in complete new light and perspective, since this was such a regular and common saying to the point that it is banal and almost lost any significance when we say it in Japanese. It was one of those thing your uncle said to justify drinking and partying. But then, when I really thought about it, this really sums up how I feel about life, as the other side of same coin of saying by Woody Allen. In the way that there is no point in thinking why we are here. We are already here, so we have to start the whole topic from the basis and the idea of "might as well". In original Japanese version, it actually says more of "We are either dancing fool or fool who watches it, so it's pity if you won't be the one who dance." In a way, having one saying from true New Yorker, and the other from Japanese as mottos for my life makes sense considering that I lived half of my life in Japan and second half so far in New York.

"Rose" + "Money"


I meant these pieces as a pair loosely.  I usually jam-pack an artwork with multiple themes and sub-themes like a puzzle, but with these, I just wanted to simply suggest one simple theme for each.  And 2 things we all are paying attention or have them in our collective consciousness at the moment seem to be ecology and finance - nature and money.  

the end

No comments:

Post a Comment

Privacy Policy