Giant Robot and kozyndan have a long history together, one that goes back to when Giant Robot opened shop on Sawtelle Boulevard in 2001. The two artists — Kozy and Dan — were still students at Cal State Fullerton. They used to stop by to visit. Sometimes, they would show Eric Nakamura, who owns Giant Robot, their art. Nakamura was just getting involved in the art world. He liked what they were doing. The three decided to put together a show inside the boutique. They were green, but the event went over well.
Now, more than a decade later, kozyndan are celebrated artists who have shows across the world. Nakamura, at this point, is well-known for his curation work. He hosts frequent shows at Giant Robot 2, the gallery across the street from Giant Robot. He also organizes the Giant Robot Biennale at Los Angeles' Japanese American National Museum. On Saturday night, the three joined forces again for “End of Summer Never Ends.”
A lot has changed since their first show with Giant Robot. “I think that when we did our first show, we were drawing whatever we were drawing,” says Dan. “We didn't know what we were doing and we didn't know how to have an art show. We just put together whatever we were working on at the time.”
In contrast, “End of Summer Never Ends” is centered around a unifying theme. Summer. Vacation. Enjoying the world that surrounds you. Even Leah Chun, an L.A. artist who contributed a few pieces to the show, reflected these ideas in her contributions. It's a show packed with multi-media works, yet it's still cohesive.
In the beginning of their career, kozyndan emphasized neighborhoods and interiors. You can see examples of this in the single covers they produced for synthpop outfit The Postal Service, as well as an illustration of the Giant Robot shop that dates back to 2002. These days, a lot of their work focuses on the sea. “We got into scuba diving and started doing a lot of ocean themes, sea creatures,” says Kozy. “Nature versus humanity or technology.”
Their fascination with large bodies of water emerged as early as 2003, when kozyndan created an original piece for the cover of Giant Robot's now-defunct magazine. In “Uprising,” bunnies fall from the foam of gigantic waves. It's an homage to The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a famed work from Edo period artist Hokusai. On their website, the L.A.-based duo describes the piece as, their “calling card, for better or for worse.” Nakamura calls it their “iconic” piece. There's a replica of it hanging on the wall inside GR2, amongst the posters and prints. Ten years later, it's still a big seller.
For “End of Summer Never Ends,” the partners delved deep into their underwater adventures. There are acrylic paintings large and small, resin and clay sculptures, even a zine featuring underwater photography. The individual artists have different skill sets — Dan handles things like sketching and photography, Kozy tends to do a lot of the heavily detailed pieces — and those talents merge into one large, eclectic body of work.
“They're a couple, so each of them have certain strengths,” says Nakamura of kozyndan. “They work together and develop each other's strengths. In a way, it looks like two different people doing one idea.”
“Sometimes Dan comes up with ideas and I try to execute it. He starts the project and I finish,” Kozy explains. “Sometimes it's the opposite. Sometimes we work on our own projects.”
Regardless of how much work the two individually add to the project at hand, they always sign it kozyndan. “We don't take credit over the other,” says Dan. “We're living together and experiencing life together and influence each other's process.”