The New Vision: Kelly Akashi

The New Vision: Kelly Akashi

With genre-bending bodies of work that span a range of mediums and materials, these are the names to know in today’s evolving scene. First up is sculptor Kelly Akashi.

With genre-bending bodies of work that span a range of mediums and materials, these are the names to know in today’s evolving scene. First up is sculptor Kelly Akashi.

Photography: Robin Harper

Text: Alexandra Pechman

As she leads me around her Inglewood, California studio, sculptor Kelly Akashi runs her finger along a blown-glass work. “I touch everything,” she says with a laugh. One can understand why: Glancing around, there are experiments like an oyster shell filled with glass; tin-foil trays of gem-colored wax; or a life-size, speckled glass apple. Akashi’s sculptures use materials and textures such as bronze, wax, and glass to create self-contained—and incredibly tactile—microcosms.

On the day we meet, Akashi is preparing a solo booth at Art Basel Hong Kong with her L.A. gallery, Ghebaly, and has just wrapped up her rst major museum solo show—at SculptureCenter in New York City—titled “Long Exposure,” which examined themes related to the body and temporality.

As the name of the show suggests, Akashi originally studied photography, but she realized the processes surrounding the medium interested her as much as the finished product. “Candle-making was the obvious next step—they illuminate themselves,” she explains of the transition, adding that she saw candles as “evidence of time and accumulation.” She notes James Welling, the pioneering photographer known for working with multiple photographic mediums, as a major influence on her work. “I still talk about things in the language of photography,” she admits.

Her work quickly moved on to using glass and bronze in order to create her own vessels for candles. The obsession with sculpting stuck. Learning how to manipulate new materials, she says, “is like building a vocabulary.”

This year, Akashi’s work will also appear in a group show at her alma mater Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, and her rise speaks to the explosion of L.A.’s artist scene. A born-and-raised Angeleno, Akashi has lived in the city most of her life, even “when a lot of people didn’t move here and there weren’t as many spaces,” she says. She may have lived and studied in Germany for two years, but the change of scenery only made her more certain about her place in L.A.

As far as her place in the art world at large, Akashi is charmingly humble. As she puts it, “I’m just a nerd about art.”

Kelly Akashi, Two Sides of One Story, 2017, bronze and glass. Courtesy the artist and Ghebaly Gallery. Photography Kelly Akashi.

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