Whitney Biennial 2014

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists as they discuss the thoughts, processes, and ideas behind their work in the 2014 Biennial. The guide also features commentary from Biennial curators Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner.

301—Ken Okiishi


KEN OKIISHI: My name is Ken Okiishi.


NARRATOR: In his gesture/data series, Okiishi has made paintings on digital flat screen TVs. They’re playing VHS tapes recorded fifteen or twenty years ago―long enough that the magnetic, analog tapes have begun to degrade. 


KEN OKIISHI: The way a magnetic tape degrades, when you play it back,I find quite beautiful. The colors start to lose their stability. So they hover inside of these grays and yellows and pinks. Colors that are not supposed to be there, appear and become very luminescent.

What I actually did was take these old tapes that I had found, and record over them while I was watching television, fast-forwarding and rewinding. That produced even a different kind of color range.

I have no nostalgia for TV back in the day, but I think there is something very beautiful about having the simultaneity of these different histories of technology all being compressed together in this one work.

NARRATOR: Okiishi painted the screens while the videos were playing, thinking about the relationship between the paint color and the on-screen color. His paint handling―and the works’ vertical format―were inspired in part by the experience of taking an iPhone picture of a painting by Joan Mitchell. Mitchell’s paintings are generally large, lush, and heavily brushed. 

KEN OKIISHI: You know when you take a picture with your phone, you're doing all these gestures on the screen. You can see these little bits of grease that reflect or refract colors in these weird rainbow ways. There was something about that smeary screen that also was relating to these gestural paintings, even though the scale was totally different.


Ken Okiishi (b. 1978), _gesture/data_, 2013. Oil on flatscreen, VHS transferred to .mp4 (Color, sound), 35 1/3 × 21 × 3 7/10 in. Collection of the artist; courtesy the artist and Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York. © Ken Okiishi