Art Lab | Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art

Experiment with ideas of appropriation and abstraction found in Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art in the Art Lab, an interactive interpretive space that encourages active engagement with the art and artists featured in current exhibitions through offerings of educational resources and hands-on activities. Visitors are invited to make a Kotafy Yourself Collage in Kota Ezawa’s signature flat graphic style, contribute to the Chandelier of Abstractions by tracing “stolen” art works, and respond to questions posed in the Heist Inquiry. A sampling of movies referencing art heists allows visitors to view the artist’s sources of inspiration, while videos featuring interviews with Kota Ezawa provide further context. Adults and kids of all ages can relax in the Cozy Corner while enjoying books from our art library or use the research iPads available at the Research Bar.

Note: Stylistically the space “steals” the look of the Dutch Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - the site of a major art heist in 1990 - while applying ideas of abstraction by reducing colors to values of grey, black, and white, and flattening out three-dimensional objects into two dimensional images.

Chandelier of Abstractions

Kota Ezawa works with photos and paintings he digitally alters into flat graphic abstractions. Visitors can explore ways of abstracting Kota Ezawa’s images into their own personal abstractions by tracing one of his source images onto pieces of acetate. Completed tracings are then added to our Chandelier of Abstractions hanging in the Art Lab, where they shine in the light! Print out the source images listed below to try abstraction tracing for yourself at home.

Tip: Keep your tracing as a line drawing or color in shapes.


Kotafy Yourself

Visitors are invited to create self-portraits in the flat graphic style of Kota Ezawa by cutting shapes out of paper in different shades of grey, black, and white. The challenge: create every feature out of paper shapes without drawing on the collage! Try this with your own materials at home following our tips to “Kotafy” yourself:

  1. Pick a black, light grey, or white cardstock background.
  2. Face: Trace the shape of your face on the BACK of a piece of toned paper that best reflects your skin tone.
  3. Hair: Choose a matching value for the color of your hair and on the BACK of the paper draw the shape of your hair. *Note: the hair is LARGER than the shape of the head.
  4. Face: Cut separate shapes for eyes, nose, eyebrows, and lips.
  5. Body/shoulders: Decide on an interesting neckline.

What Have You Stolen? What Has Been Stolen From You?

Kota Ezawa’s practice is rooted in the intersections of art and crime. With this inquiry-based activity think about your experience: What Have You Stolen? What Has Been Stolen From You?


Meet artist Kota Ezawa in the interviews below. Learn more about photography, sampling, language, and art for all. Plus: watch the original security footage of the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that inspired Kota Ezawa’s Gardner Museum Revisited, 2016 as well as the concept of the Art Lab.

Kota Ezawa: Exploring Public Art Practices
MIA Artist in Residence: Kota Ezawa
Art Inspires: Kota Ezawa on Winogrand
Kota Ezawa on "The History of Photography Remix"
Security footage of Isabella Stewart Gardner Heist


See anything familiar? Kota Ezawa draws from film and popular culture in his body of work. Check out these original movies about art heists below, all of which are referenced in his piece The Crime of Art.

How to Steal a Million
The Thomas Crown Affair

Image: Kota Ezawa, The Crime of Art (detail), 2017, Single-channel color video, 2 minutes 5 seconds, Courtesy of the artist, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Additional Resources

Visit the Microsite for resources on artists Kota Ezawa and Beatriz Olabarrieta.

Open PDF of the Microsite.

Use this virtual tour of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to explore the site of the notorious art heist featured in Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art.

Spotify Playlist

Playlist created by Kota Ezawa to accompany the exhibition.

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Art Lab @ MCASB

The Art Lab is an interactive learning space in the Museum that encourages active engagement with the art and artists featured in our exhibitions. Here you will find educational resources and hands-on activities, and we invite you to play to explore. The lab theme changes with each exhibition and complements the art on view with engagement opportunities for visitors of all ages.

Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara CA, 93101

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