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Kelly Akashi’s ‘Formations’: New exhibit at MCASD in La Jolla

“This practice has been quite a journey for me,” Los Angeles-based artist Kelly Akashi said of a new exhibit in La Jolla revealing the ways she feels her memories matter.

Hand: Kelly Akashi, Cultivator (Hanami), (detail) 2021

Kelly Akashi: Formations” is now open at the flagship MCASD location at 700 Prospect St.

The show is Akashi’s first major touring museum exhibition, organized by the San José Museum of Art.

“Formations” features a decade of Akashi’s work, including glass and cast bronze objects, multipart sculptural installations, and photographic pieces.

“Time is an essential theme in Akashi’s work,” said MCASD senior curator Jill Dawsey, as Akashi’s pieces capture a record of the changing human body through aging hands, grown-out fingernails, and more.

Investigating inheritance

Much of the work on view explores the impact of Akashi’s father’s imprisonment in a Japanese-American incarceration camp in Poston, Arizona, where Akashi’s paternal family and thousands of others were relocated and held during World War II.

Akashi investigates this history and ideas of intergenerational trauma through “material engagement with trees, plants, and rocks that she encountered on visits to the camp,” Dawsey said.

“Conjoined Tumbleweeds” is one such piece, a large bronze cast of intertwined plants collected in Poston.

“I was really drawn to [the plants] because it’s two weeds that seem to have grown into each other,” Akashi said, an entanglement she found to be a metaphor for her processing of memories from her father’s past and how those thoughts have affected her.

The tumbleweeds are a “mirror for this kind of intangible exploration of what’s inherited,” she added.

artist Kelly Akashi stands next to blown glass creations displayed
Kelly Akashi; Photo by Marten Elder.

Sculptural solutions

“I love making sculpture because there’s an element of problem-solving involved [when] you’re working with physics,” Akashi said.

Many of the “Formation” pieces are grouped in constellations on rammed earth pedestals Akashi produced for the exhibition.

The pedestals display her works “so people can really feel the work in their body without actually physically touching it,” she said.

Mixing materials and techniques from organics like onions and flowers to sculpting with bronze and glassblowing, Akashi was able to traverse a “flexible family narrative embedded with … a lot of journeys in terms of craft processes.”

The combination of pieces in the exhibition lead to a “beguiling and unexpected effect,” said MCASD David C. Copley, Director and Chief Executive Kathryn Kanjo.

Kanjo believes the show’s “illusions will spark conversations about our region’s landscape and history.”

Dawsey hopes “this exhibition here in San Diego will foster consciousness and public discourse about these histories,” she said, memories that “have deep global relevance yet are too little discussed.”

MCASD tickets are $15 and up; “Kelly Akashi: Formations” will run through Feb 18.

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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