January 25, 2019 – February 15, 2018
GALLERY HOURS :11:00 – 19:00
RECEPTION:Friday, January 25, 2019 18:00 –

Kaikai Kiki Gallery is excited to announce that from January 25th, 2019, we will be presenting BENEATH THE SURFACE, a solo exhibition of works by American artist ZES.

Los Angeles native ZES (also known as ZESER or ZES MSK) began his graffiti career in the 1990s, a period ravaged by gang violence and the U.S. government’s heightened “War on Drugs” campaign. Forced to rely on his instinct and survival skills to navigate life in the rough streets, ZES was instilled with a sense of independence from a very early age– he was not afraid to use the city as his personal jungle gym, and after starting graffiti at the age of twelve, continuously challenged himself to leave increasingly complex markings on the most impossible-to-reach ledges and walls. By the age of fifteen, he had become a member of the legendary graffiti crew MSK (Mad Society Kings), where he became well known for creating intensely ambitious works even in the most extreme locations, often scaling tall buildings and billboards to leave his mark. In the two decades that have passed since then, ZES’s experimental, aggressive approach has had a revolutionary impact on graffiti and taken him to a legendary status within the scene worldwide.

After making a name for himself as a graffitist, ZES ventured indoors with his first gallery exhibition in 2012, carrying his street practice from wall to canvas. Years of creating art in dangerous situations has shaped ZES’s creative process, lending his works a striking quality of urgency and raw emotion, amplified by his use of the spray cans, rollers, brushes, and tools that have traveled across L.A. with him.

BENEATH THE SURFACE showcases a new body of work that represents the artist’s personal journey within the tumultuous, divisive environment of current-day America. Using a color palette limited to red and blue, opposites both in hue and in symbolism, ZES plays with the power of societal context: although each piece is unique, the viewer is forced on first impression to view the works as part of two contrasting sides, a false dichotomy that ZES aims to refute through the uncontained, erratic strokes that strike through each colored canvas. Combined with the textural ravines that weave in and out of the paint, layered over time in mimicry of a growing cell or organism, ZES’s artistic process mirrors his growth and struggles as an individual that exists outside of the oversimplified and over-politicized atmosphere of America today. Like his graffiti past, ZES refuses to be confined within borders, staying unabashedly true to his individual identity. This exhibition seeks to expose the artist’s solitude and spirituality in it’s purest, most honest form. We invite you to come witness the unbridled energy of ZES’s first solo exhibition in Japan.

A Message from the Artist

“Painting graffiti for years allowed me to learn how to push paint around on all sizes and range of surfaces. While walking the line, I learned how to express my emotions through this art form. But now, creating these paintings with this legacy on my shoulders, I strive to stay true to the mark and put together something that has evolved and is progressive.”