While poring through the school's slide library for a presentation on the history of photography for an introductory media arts course, he found himself thrilled: "I thought it was almost like DJing. 'Oh yeah, this one will be really good. Maybe I'll play this one after this one.' " He took the Klein image home, scanned it into his computer, made a graphic sketch over the original, and kicked off his own "History," a compendium of transparencies, slides, collages, and intaglio etchings drawing on images as disparate as Ansel Adams landscapes and the surveillance shot of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army at the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. "That kind of became the idea for the work, to make this fake history slide show," he said.
Ezawa's strategy stirs up the familiar cauldron of copyright issues in this age of digital reproduction. "You could call it visual hip-hop," he quipped. "But you can also call it somehow ripping off." He's had only a few "sensitive reactions" from the creators of the original images. "I had long discussions, and it all got resolved," Ezawa said. "But with the book it was like, 'OK, if you're making this book and you're ripping off tens and tens of photographs, you don't want to have 30 angry photographers sending nasty e-mails." So in an effort to avoid a Simpson-like "legal nightmare," he contacted every shooter he sampled, and "the reaction was 95 percent very positive."
The SF artist has understandably mixed, and remixed, feelings about copyright, which he describes as being "really used to protect the interests of Walt Disney [Company] as opposed to actual artists. But then I feel like events like YouTube really help everybody and also the emergence of China as an economic player in the world, where they have Dior handbags that might say 'Djor.' I do think copyright might not exist much longer, though maybe long enough to ruin all of our lives."
He gave a compact chuckle. But then, the artist who once sang and played keyboards along with his wife, Karla Milosevich, in the Helen Lundy Trio seems to have his own quirky handle on the problem. "You know, like any hip-hop artist or DJ, I find my ways to manage this." *
SECA ART AWARD EXHIBITION
Jan. 27April 22; call for additional programs; $7$12.50 (free first Tues.; half price Thurs., 68:45 p.m.)
Mon.Tues. and Fri.Sun., 11 a.m.5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.8:45 p.m.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third St., SF