Kelly Akashi on Creating “Sublimely Offensive” Sculptures and What Happens When Your Medium Becomes Obsolete

Kelly Akashi: Seismogram, 2023.

A lot of people pointed to the wads of chewing gum and asked me, is that bronze? Is that glass? But no, it’s just gum! I was drawn to the idea of mastication, and to having this unnamed material—saliva—as a crucial component. I tried to choose pieces of gum that had visible tooth marks, impressions of the body. Actually, I had a nice chat with [artist] Haim Steinbach, who also shows with the gallery, and he called the gum “sublimely offensive.” I thought, well that’s a nice summary; I think I’ll borrow the term.

The plinths are rammed earth, an ancient building technique where you use tools to stamp and pound dirt and Portland cement into layers. The cement works as a binder; without it, the dirt would just crumble once it dried. With this and other materials, I wanted to play with ideas of permanence. The gum might seem like the most temporary material in there, but in actuality, it might be the most archival material I’ve ever used. The show features a broken friendship necklace as well.

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