San Francisco

Kaz Oshiro

Steven Wolf Fine Arts

DRUM MACHINES HAVE NO SOUL reads a bumper sticker duct-taped to the side of what appears to be a small Fender guitar amp. That sentiment, characteristic of classic rock, expresses a yearning for authenticity that is also at the heart of Kaz Oshiro’s meticulous sculptural practice. Using Bondo (an auto-body repair filler), canvas stretched over wooden frameworks, and acrylic paint, the Japanese-born, Los Angeles–based artist crafts convincing facsimiles of ordinary objects. The amplifier is one such fake—a peek at its backside reveals an unfinished interior, the seam of the canvas stapled haphazardly to the support. Here, then, an act of technical finesse is applied to an ordinary-looking device that’s used to make one’s point heard.

In his San Francisco debut, Oshiro showed just five works, and the show’s spare installation made the gallery feel more like a severely underfurnished warehouse loft than an exhibition space. The lonely Fender Vibro Champ #3, 2006, was placed in the middle of the room, while in one corner stood an unassuming stack of small white speakers, Bose Entertainment Sound System, 2002. The hot pink Trash Bin #9, 2005, which looked as if it had been salvaged from a Wendy’s dining room, nearly abutted a pillar, leaving just enough room to peer at its back and see its artificiality. Shiny cola-colored stains pooled on the top of the sculpture helped to make it so believable that guests attempted to dump plastic cups into it at the opening reception, adding a few extra scuffs. The artist uses acrylic to lend a dull sheen to the seamless surface he engineers, and while there are few areas that reveal the artist’s hand, his trickery invariably inspires the desire to touch.

Oshiro flirts with one-liner gimmickry, relying on trompe l’oeil deceptions, yet there’s something about Trash Bin #9 in particular that nudges us toward a more involved consideration of the modes and meanings of positive and negative space: The piece appears solid on one side, but a glance at the other side reveals its emptiness. And the artist’s signature is also plainly visible on the unfinished interiors of most of his works. Only Wall Cabinet #5 and Small Fridge #5 (Black Flag), both 2005 (the reference to the pioneering punk band is expressed in another artist-rendered sticker on the fake-wood-grain appliance) are pushed against the wall, their construction concealed, an act that introduces a sense of existential doubt: How does one find authenticity in a prefabricated world?

Does Oshiro’s work have soul? That the question even arises points to a certain kind of success. His highly finished surfaces are immediately appealing, yet because they conceal essentially empty boxes his constructions offer none of the uncanny frisson of, say, a Duane Hanson mannequin. Oshiro turns his viewers into supporting players in a quotidian drama—a boyish one at that—but we are required to provide the heart.

Glen Helfand