OCT 30-DEC 3, 2021
825 N La Cienega Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90069
October 30-December 3 2021,
by appointment: (310) 652-8272
Los Angeles Art Association is presenting Curio, the first solo exhibition by E. E. Kono. Curio focuses on symbols whose meaning can differ depending upon cultural perspective, creating questions that challenge viewers’ perception and offering a bridge between diverse viewpoints. The show consists of thirteen vibrant egg tempera paintings on traditional icon boards surrounded by 13 silverpoint monochromatic drawings and objects. The installation, hung salon style, suggests a renaissance studiolo or a humanist cabinet. The format invites the viewer to find connections between pieces, asking them to create narratives of their own making.
The majority of work in the show was produced during 2020’s lockdown. On the surface, the paintings are bright and cheerful filled with California sunshine, but references to the era’s unrest are found within the imagery. Baby New Year (2020) depicts a toddler perched in the branches of a tree overlooking the California coastline. In the distance, Catalina Island and a busy shipping lane reference the port of Los Angeles and its position in global trade. The child is dressed in red, symbolic of peace and prosperity in Eastern cultures, but martyrs and sacrifice in the west. Their pose echoes that of the Christ child as well as Chinese ancestor portraits. Perched on his shoulder is a mockingbird which is famously associated with a loss of innocence, but also growth, communication, and new beginnings. The child holds a golden poppy—California’s state flower—whose bright orange is more hopeful than the blood red of Asian and European varieties that have come to be associated with war and the imperialistic opium trade. The central tree is filled with lemons, long considered a mark of longevity, purification, and hope for eternal life but also symbolic of bitterness and disappointment. On the tree crawls a snail, historically interpreted as both consumption and resurrection. The contrasting connotations of each detail highlight the conflict within the represented year.
Kono lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. While she is a self-taught painter, she studied art history at the University of Hull (England) and The University of Iowa (Iowa, City). She has studied traditional egg tempera techniques under the guidance of artist Koo Schadler. Raised in the upper Mississippi river valley in an area described as “Grant Wood country”, Kono spent her formative summers exposed to the global community of her parents' graduate housing. As an adult, she traveled extensively between the U.S., Asia, and Europe. Prior to focusing on her art practice, Kono wrote and illustrated books for children publishing over a dozen picture books with major trade publishers. She married into a Japanese American family and is raising a daughter in California. An avid sailor, Kono’s work often shows a connection to the sea.
Curio is a body of work created in Southern California during the coronavirus lockdown and social turmoil of 2020. I was interested in exploring how symbols and references can be understood differently depending upon cultural perspective. The intent is to leave space within each piece for individual interpretation. My work is small in scale, encouraging intimate contemplation. In our age, viewers often do not sit with art long enough to see the many layers of meaning. For this installation, I’ve included separate tone on tone works that draw out repetitive symbols within my work, asking viewers to question what each may represent. My painting practice uses a meditative process of application that provides a purity of color long prized throughout history and across cultures for its ability to portray the sacred. Paintings can take months to complete. During that period the symbols and meanings layered into the imagery morphs, emphasizing the fluidity of perception.