Meet Kai, an international, emerging artist making new waves in the art world for his complicated subjects and simplistic design.
Q: Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?
A: I go by the name Kai and I’m an international artist who loves working with different mediums that raise awareness and express certain viewpoints and social commentaries that tie us all together as human beings.
Q: What is your background?
A: I was born and raised in Los Angeles and my parents were both of diverse backgrounds, which helped me appreciate different cultures and art from an early age. By my mid-teens, the concrete streets of LA became my canvas for creating various street art, graffiti, and murals. I was fortunate enough to study at the California Institute of the Arts and the prestigious L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Q: How do you work?
A: While I love to collaborate on a piece of art, I prefer to work solo – with a high degree of concentration that helps me convey not just how the artwork will appear, but also how it communicates a meaningful message. When it comes to creating work, I first sketch it out, then create it digitally to clean up the fine lines. This then allows me to figure out which medium is the most preferable to create my message through – paint, concrete works, sculptures, or even tabletop sculptures. Early on in my work, I developed a signature character named “IF,” which is short for “Imaginary Friend.” This recurring character is a central component to much of my recent work, but IF bears no distinguishable physical, gender, or race-related traits. I created this androgynous character so that anyone can relate to it without applying stereotypical or cultural bias. IF has become a prevalent part of my sculpture and paint work, signifying messages that are ingrained in the design itself. IF is simply there to help convey the many universal themes that bind us together as a society.
Q: What art do you most identify with?
A: Expressing my message through street art has remained a form that I readily identify with. Later, I began to work with concrete and cement, which I work with for many of my original sculptures. In a way, I’ve come full circle from my days creating original art on the streets of Los Angeles to the cement and concrete I now fashion into sculptures.
Q: What has been your favorite experience so far, as an artist?
A: It would be very hard for me to share just one favorite experience but recently, I had the opportunity to work with Odell Beckham, Jr., a professional athlete who plays football for the Los Angeles Rams NFL team. He was expecting the birth of his first child and commissioned an original cement and bronze sculpture to celebrate what it meant to him to become a father for the first time. The piece is entitled, ‘Endless Possibilities’ and depicts my IF character, on a bended knee, presenting a globe of the world to a small child. Beckham was very moved by the piece, which he felt communicates the love and endless possibilities that a parent has to offer his or her child. Last year during Miami Art Week, he joined me in person at the Wynwood Walls Urban Graffiti Museum for the unveiling. It was truly a special moment, and this experience was definitely one of my favorite experiences as an artist.
Who inspires you?
A: People inspire me. Not necessarily on the individual level, but as a collective global and cultural society. Listening to people speak also really inspires me. Hearing people’s stories, how their day was, listening to the news, music, television. Sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what has been said. I try to use my artwork to communicate the different universal themes that bind us all together. We have more than enough issues that divide and separate us, but I prefer a more idealistic viewpoint. I want to see the good in people – the love, time, caring, success, and similarities that all human beings are capable of sharing with one another.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: I think the best advice anyone can receive is the kind you’re willing to listen to and take to heart. I was raised to believe that nothing is impossible and that you can’t let the world tell you no. Believing in yourself is a real commodity – one that I wish more people would realize.
Q: When you are not working, where can we find you?
A: Well, I am a bit of a workaholic and I love to get into whatever I’m creating at the moment. Keeping busy with developing new collections, planning new exhibitions, and creating original pieces is what keeps me going. But, when I do take breaks, I love to take my dog for walks outside. I’ve also spent a lot more time in nature, allowing me to clear my head and create space for new ideas. I also enjoy cooking. It’s a different type of art.
Q: How has your career as an artist shifted during the past few years?
A: Since I began working with Bernard at Markowicz Fine Art, I’ve had a lot on my schedule and, for an artist, that’s definitely a good thing. I’m enjoying the subtle activist nature of the themes I’ve been creating lately. We put a lot of work into my solo shows at CONTEXT Art Miami late last year. I debuted a brand-new collection of paintings and sculptures with the theme, “Before It’s Too Late.” This exhibition had a specific message for society as a whole – bringing attention to the fragile environmental state of the world we live in. “Before It’s Too Late” is a cautionary tale, demonstrating that we don’t have an unlimited amount of time to address the sustainability of the planet. Going forward, I hope to spread this message and subsequent activism on more of a global scale.
You can find Kai on Instagram to stay up-to-date on his latest projects.