Virgil Abloh

March 16, 2018 – April 1, 2018
GALLERY HOURS :11:00 – 19:00
RECEPTION:March 16, 2016 18:00〜21:00

From March 16 (Fri.) to April 1 (Sun.), 2018, Kaikai Kiki Gallery is pleased to present “PAY PER VIEW”, a solo exhibition of works by the American artist, fashion designer, engineer, and creative producer, Virgil Abloh.

Known to many as the genius behind streetwear label Off-White, Abloh has been recognized for his work across diverse fields, spanning such accomplishments such as his furniture collection at Design Miami 2016, to his incredibly sought-after Virgil Abloh x Nike collaboration sneakers, to his co-created artwork exhibition with Takashi Murakami which opened at Gagosian Gallery London just this February.

Abloh, who has made statements previously through fashion collections, music, and various media, expresses the breadth of his conceptual reach this time with a solo exhibition of artworks. “PAY PER VIEW” will revolve around the question of how consumerism, advertising, and the media influence the way we see the world. We hope you will come witness the essence of Virgil Abloh’s vision through his latest solo show at Kaikai Kiki Gallery.

A message from the artist

“We are all products of our consumption.” – Virgil Abloh

“PAY PER VIEW” is an exhibition from Virgil Abloh that illustrates the significance of how advertising formulates and shapes our consciousness. Under the basis of product logo placement from brands that were prominent in advertising in the 90’s, Abloh creates a world within this exhibition that captivates his audience, asking them to reflect on whether they are inherently a product of their consumption. This consumption is influenced by the ideology that advertising is the handmade algorithm which our generation has formulated and is still, to this day, trying to perfect. Virgil Abloh wants his audience to see that there is an inherent art in marketing methodology. He believes that we are in the period of time, where an artist should not be working abstractly, but must have personal opinions and provide commentary on current social issues, circumstances, and situations that are occurring in our world. This exhibition highlights how advertising, similar to art has a unique way of recording the nuances of culture, investigating “irony” and showcasing Virgil Abloh’s voice concerning social discourse. The concept that is reiterated throughout Abloh´s works in this exhibition, follows the principle that every creation of Virgil Abloh’s, whether it be in the realm of fashion, art, music, film, literature, or furniture can speak to the “Tourist” as well as the “Purist” at the same time.

The exhibition engages its audience through visual communication, allowing visitors to experience contemporary art, that further pushes their minds to question what they see. The works are created to engineer emotions, through architecting experiences that embody a multitude of messages which coexist within a single object. Virgil Abloh invites every visitor to be engulfed in a world that expands past its physical constraints. The principal agenda behind this exhibition was to call the viewer to observe the different ways in which advertising surrounds their daily lives and to clearly see the cause and effect of the intertwinement of the thought processes behind how advertisements are internally encoded on a conceptual sphere to divulge their hidden messages activated by the viewers own senses.

The works themselves: “non-cable channel”, “advertise here”, “Lamar”, “OUTFRONT”, “JCDecaux”, “Television”, “untitled”, “oil spill”, “a mere image”, “up-to-date”, “dollar a gallon”, and “ALL SIGNS ARE CONTEMPORARY”, all share the commonality of continuing to add onto the worldwide social commentary, imploring the audience to view how images and texts portrayed within each work, naturally produce a reaction and message in their minds, which often the brain is aiming to decipher. The end result is that each viewer may have a different understanding of the message, through various experiences they had encountered throughout their lifetime. The different understandings begin a dialogue aspiring to define a universal language that assists in creating a deeper understanding of the meaning behind every creative work.

Virgil Abloh is inspired by art’s ability to advertise. The Renaissance is his personal awakening moment and through years of his own practices, he views art and advertising as his church. Trained with degrees in architecture and engineering, when Virgil Abloh’s mind first encountered Caravaggio or Bernini’s work, which both were hypothetical visual advertisements, there was a provoked yearning of questioning and personal analyzation of the message their works of art were aspiring to convey to Virgil Abloh. This was the stimulus that moved Virgil Abloh to use branding as his art form. These personal experiences are tied back to this exhibition, which uses various vessels, to illustrate how they as artworks are a catalyst to unpack algorithms that modern advertising is rooted in.

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich’s first variation of the Black Square (1915), which was the first work that introduced the avant-garde Suprematism movement to the world and one of the formative works of modern and abstract art in the history of Western Society, had a profound impact on Virgil Abloh’s strain of modernist thinking. Virgil Abloh’s works “advertise here”, “Lamar”, “OUTFRONT”, “JCDecaux”, and “Television” incorporate the study of contemporary advertising and analyze the symbolic expressions behind each advertising campaign. Using influences from his own personal cultural observations and the impact that culture has on its surroundings, Abloh applies this methodology into his narrative and commentary using the canon of Malevich’s black square’s dialogue to connect the lines and illustrate the inherent intention that the viewer is a distilled crux of the power of advertising.

“PAY PER VIEW” showcases how Media has the most profound impact on how humanity sees the world. Using the inspiration of advertising (billboards, etc.), Virgil Abloh is striving to show how we are shaped by society into thinking everything needs to be “perfect”. This ideology is why Virgil Abloh attempts to teach himself how to write in Helvetica and to use quotes in his work. This exhibition is one of Abloh’s many case studies to demonstrate and analyze how the world portrays and comprehends his methodology. The exhibition is aiming to have its audience begin to view the world differently, to use irony as one’s tool to comment on what they observe in their daily life. Virgil Abloh is addressing how the gaze of media makes opinions feel like facts, although these, in reality, can also be alternative facts. He wants the audience to understand that they are in a new era, where everything previously uneditable is now editable. The expressions created throughout our generation is indicative of a spirit to respond to the feeling of enlightenment that reality can be questioned and rewritten. This being only a small building block in a utopia of a societal dialogue transcribed through the messages painted on the various entities that encompass our daily lives.

These works, whether it be a Led Screen showcasing a film of black bodies, a Rug with quoted Text, or hand-painted canvases, are all embodiments of the channels they portray, they are the proverbial “Mannequin” for their text or visualization. These creations and thought processes are works of the genre of the “Modern Day Renaissance” in the 21st Century.

A Message from Takashi Murakami

It’s midnight, 0:00am, on March 2nd in Japan.
In preparation for Virgil’s solo show at Kaikai Kiki Gallery, I pose some technical questions on our WhatsApp group, which has a dozen or so participants, regarding the installation of a sculptural work as well as about the specs of the limited-edition T-shirts we plan to release for the opening. Seconds later, Virgil’s assistant Athi’s response comes back with his signature, affable greetings about our well-beings. Virgil also sends detailed instructions on the T-shirt production and sales.

Hmm? I thought the Off-White runway show in Paris was happening in a few hours; how can they respond so quickly? Not only that, isn’t the exclusive Off-White x Air Jordan 1 “White” being released tomorrow as well? And yet when I post an announcement about my limited-edition print release in Tokyo on Instagram, Virgil himself likes the post in an instant. How does this work?

For Virgil, it seems, doing a runway show in Paris is like breathing air; he has no greed for success and sense of tension seems completely foreign to him.

Just three or four years ago, the Off-White print patterns changed the rules of street fashion. In 2017, the NIKE Air Jordan collaboration changed the game for sneakers.

Virgil Abloh, the game changer!

When I think about the existence of Virgil Abloh, I get so excited.
I am energized.
I ponder with a deep frown.
I snap my fingers as I make a new discovery.
Even as the boundaries between art, fashion, Instagram, race, market, timezones, values, and originality become blurry and vague, the creator himself is brought into ever-sharper relief. Virgil Abloh is sitting there with a smile on his face. Or rather, even when Virgil the person is not there, you feel him when you encounter the projects he has handled.

I don’t think it’s too much, then, to expect him to make something happen as he gets involved in the game of art.

It’s hard to grasp at a first glance. But Virgil’s work has gradually been changing rules of various games; I can’t suppress my excitement that the moment of change in the art world is about to begin with his involvement.

– Takashi Murakami