Kathy Aoki

Kathy Aoki

Kathy Aoki addresses beauty, gender, and pop-culture issues through familiar visual formats injected with a twist of humor. Her ongoing series, collectively entitled “The Museum of Historical Makeovers,” has roots in art history, beauty trends, feminism, and museology. Through a simulated museum framework, the work delivers wry, feminist reflections on today’s values. Past solo exhibitions featured ersatz historical prints, paintings, sculptures, and immersive installations that pay mock homage to beauty and cuteness.

From October 2019 through January 2020, Aoki was an artist-in-residence at the Recology AIR program in San Francisco. Her past awards include fellowships from Kala Art Institute (1995), MacDowell (2001), Headlands Center for the Arts (2003), Djerassi (2006), Val Paraiso (2013) and Frans Masereel Centrum (2013, 2019). Her work can be found in major collections across the U.S. such as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, SFMOMA , the Harvard University Art Museums, and the New York Public Library.

Past commissioned projects included a 2004 grant from the San Francisco Public Arts Commission for the Art on Market Street Kiosk Poster Project. Her series of linocut prints were transformed into 4 x 6 ft posters entitled “Champions of Market St.” showing Market St. pedestrians dressed in super-hero garb performing random acts of kindness. In January 2012, Aoki completed the interactive “Political Paper Dolls”art installation commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art for the exhibition “Renegade Humor.” Aoki received the Prix-de-Print award in the journal Art in Print (Nov-Dec 2015 issue), as selected by Stephen Goddard, Professor of History of Art and Associate Director and Senior Curator at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence. The essay can be found here. In 2016, Aoki  was commissioned to create three photopolymer intaglio prints for display and and acquisition by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum in Philadelphia, for the exhibition “Happiness, Liberty, Life? American Art and Politics.”

Kathy Aoki’s resume is available here.

Instagram: kathy_aoki_artist

To purchase work:

Kala Art Institute Art Sales Berkeley, California, USA

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Recent Exhibitions

de Young Open
de Young museum, San Francisco, California
October 10, 2020 – January 3, 2021

Artists React to the Pandemic, George Floyd and the Election, curated by Patricia Dalhman.
Group online exhibition featuring the work of Kathy Aoki, Aileen Bassis, Sue Coe, and many others.


Current Online Performance:

Humorous Performance-Lecture on Monuments, as the “Curator” of Historical Makeovers (30 min plus Q&A)
Commissioned by the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.


Recent Residency

Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium. Printmaking Research Residency,  May 25 – July 5, 2019.
Aoki explored the theme of monuments through Risograph, polyester plate lithography, and photopolymer intaglio.


Past Solo Shows

Toppled Times
@ the Recology Artist in Residence Program in San Francisco
Kathy Aoki presented disgraced monuments to the patriarchy and death by a beauty sphinx’s inane riddles. The work was made from materials found in the Public Reuse and Recycling Area (the dump) during her four-month residency at Recology in San Francisco. The result is a humorous combination of installation and sculpture in a simulated museum environment. See images from Aoki’s Recology Exhibition on Flickr here .

Mansplaining sculpture in progress by Kathy Aoki at Recology SF

#WishYouWereHere (solo)
San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California
Commissioned “Sandbox” installation:  June 23 –  Sept 9, 2018
Included Hello Kitty Monument Selfie Spot and Visitors’ Center

Beauty Essentials: Artifacts from the Museum of Historical Makeovers (solo)
Haldan Gallery, South Lake Tahoe, 2017

Formidable Fragments: Breaking Down the Cult of Cute (solo)
Berkeley Art Center (California), 2016


Past Commission:

Happiness, Liberty, Life! American Art and Politics
Group show including three commissioned works created by Kathy Aoki
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia
June 30 – September 18, 2016


Six minutes of Kathy Aoki’s fifteen minutes of fame were used for this artist profile on SPARK* on KQED San Francisco Bay Area television.
Kathy Aoki on Spark (first aired 2007)


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