Review: Tetsuji Aono at L2kontemporary

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A giraffe with bulbous breasts for eyes. A full-size banana rising from the fly of a miniature cowboy’s pants. A man with an impossibly tall, multi-patty hamburger where his head should be. Such ridiculous conflations abound in Tetsuji Aono’s new sculptures at L2kontemporary. Beautifully crafted pop-culture pastiches, they evoke a smile but little more — neither deep guffaw nor pensive pause.

Aono works in clay, and the group of unglazed pieces that forms the centerpiece of the show are crisply executed, as formally smart as they are conceptually silly. Ranging from 18 to 25 inches in height, each features one or two figures standing on what appears to be an oval jewelry box. Heads and other body parts are mix-and-match, but what remain consistent are the elegant eggshell surfaces, many of them perforated all over with holes of various sizes, like polka-dot voids.

In several other pieces that combine glazed and unglazed surfaces, the L.A. artist stacks his forms, totem style, into unified monuments to incongruous un-monumentality.

Kitschy figurines of a bunny, a gingham-skirted woman and a clichéd Indian girl with feather headdress pile neatly atop geodesic spheres and decorative bases. In one 6-foot-tall totem, teddy bear forms are stacked head to head and toe to toe, all of them punched with holes and largely unglazed but for the uppermost bear, its skin an uninterrupted, gleaming graphite.


Aono bastardizes decorative collectibles, but his irreverence carries little heft because he doesn’t take on images or forms that are particularly sacred. He samples and remixes, and the sentimental, sexual, comical and trite ally with ease, when unease might leave a stronger impression.

-- Leah Ollman

L2kontemporary, 990 N. Hill St., No. 205, L.A., (626) 319-3661, through May 16. Closed Sundays through Wednesdays.

Above: Aono’s ‘Untitled (Bear). Credit: L2kontemporary