A Review of Kio Griffith’s In(Poetry)2dexed Exhibition

In his first solo exhibit at L.A. Artcore Center for the Arts in little Tokyo January 2018, Kio Griffith’s body of work is an interdisciplinary display of paper collage, sculptures, and a video installation. He was born in Kanagawa, Japan and is based in Los Angeles as well as in Japan. Griffith is an independent curator, writer and producer. He studied at Otis/ Parson School of Design and has exhibited in the United Kingdom, Japan, U.S, Croatia, Belgium, China, Germany and several other countries. His artistic projects include the creation of over 300 hundred music covers designs. Griffith participated in the Aichi Triennale 2016 in Nagoya, Japan. He also writes for art publications in the U.S. and Japan. In 2017 Griffith was presented with the Emerging Curators Award by the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE).


Griffith’s In(Poetry)2dexed was inspired when he and his family discovered a series of diaries. He realized then the incapacity to read all 50 years of dairies written by his father. The cryptic title of this display of work makes reference to the process of shuffling information to find meaning. Since his father’s death, a decade ago, the quest to make sense of his father’s attempt at reinventing himself in a foreign country recorded in his daily journal entries, became Griffith’s point of departure for this body of work. The inherited literature would lead to a minimalist yet profound interpretation of the physicality of reading and the exteriority of memory as a lived experience shaped by chance and surprise.  

 Material of choice for the collage works is collected newspapers from different countries: cut, layered, and indexed with a steel pipe acting as a pressing tool that joins approximately the one inch thick paper together. The practical use and versatility of newspaper is a close up on the everyday exchange of local, regional, and international narratives. Unlike the techniques of dada and cubism of deconstructing, Griffith does the opposite, he is re-contextualizing how information is gathered, assembled and structured to create content, memory and communication.  Multiple prints in each of the newspaper sheets crypt together turn into a barrage of diverse languages, all speaking at once. The residue of this integration for Griffith becomes a question of how to integrate this new language that coincides with random creations of meaning.  Impoverished materials are revived with the aesthetic virtues of simplicity and selflessness. There is a concern to rescue materials discarded as no longer useful by today’s modern society. Discolored and wrinkled this body work is tapped with conversations that extend from the faded edges. In one of his Algorithm’s a random image of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is captured dropping an ancient urn to the ground. Another Algorithm titled, One Billion Dollar Embassy 2007, contains words like chance and choice. Algorithm: Frequency Retrofit/White 2017 seems to be suggesting the shoring up of structures with frequencies tuned to whiteness. There is an invitation to figure out what to make sense of, what remains and what leaves us, a la Wittgenstein with titles that can be associated with absurdity, politics and identity.

 His salvaged book sculpture series, the visceral affect of sculpting is re-associated by space that occupies the sculpture. For Griffith, the modern masters of modernity work of art entail the act of much reading. In An American Tragedy 2017, a paperback with tape sculpture is structured as a literal statement with the cover’s original title as an instant message. Unlike the masters, it is a sculpture that embodies today’s post modern era of text messaging without the body of literature in the book as its vertebra. The instant text-like charge of the title carries a deep political reflection of today’s means of communication and current political circumstances in American politics. The original titles with minimal words nevertheless are strong and bold enough to stand on their own. It is a sculpture series that preserves some of its originality that accompanies the process of re-inventing while pushing the viscosity of the message in ones direction. Offshore Drilling Technology, 2017 is one of Griffith’s high viscosity book cover and tape sculpture that drills right into the core of environmental concerns.  

Several incised orange book covers in the exhibition have been converted into open pockets.   The openings seem to be gashing out for air allowing life to precede its venture into this new born cavity. It is a susurro! (A Spanish word that means a deep breath of air that most often expresses what words cannot).

The video installation titled Algorithm Counter is a visual monochrome composition that spins like a casino slot machine; it is driven by chance and random. It is a rotation that involves the timing of letters engaged with past and present to re-associate new hidden possibilities. It is the work of shuffling new combinations of letters that challenge fixed ways of knowing that Griffith brings to light: conservative social and political values that infringe on the process of creativity. He describes, “If you go too conservative you lose the opportunity of taking chances.” He further elaborates, “Conservatism to be the antithesis for creativity.” In this video letters rotate and stop simultaneously to birth and register meaning as marking and forming.

Griffith’s multidisciplinary approach gathers all his art disciplines; music, installations, performances, video and traditional methods of creating that emphasize the human spiritual frequencies that help readjust our relationships amongst one another. They are playful and welcoming. He squeezes the juice out of letters and meaning, pressing together multiple languages to coincide with random interpretations layered over existing social and political concerns of the artist. Griffith questions the ownership of words and meaning with chance as his interceptor. The reviving that follows this series is his attempt to jump start hope in the era of texting.

The newspaper collages are sealed to retain the imbedded memory within the body of language and the tactile feeling that is missing today. Griffith attempts to notch out established comfort and conservative values as a way to rekindle new approaches to life and ways of being. Every human is a series of multiple volumes of unread literature saturated with information that often goes untouched and unread.  For Griffith, “The act of reading is an open window to an emotional reaction.”

He rescues history by re-sculpting the process of words and literature by depositing layers of ideas that act as sediment that upon excavation can be an archeological treasure. This exhibit brings for Griffith the opportunity to pay tribute to his father and the teachings of chance that coincided with selflessness and creativity. It is an exhibition that opposes the hegemony of assembling one-dimensional thinking.

Jimmy Centeno

February 28, 2017