Frieze - Waka Waka
Shin Okuda, founder of the Los Angeles- based design studio Waka Waka, makes nearly all of the business’s furniture by hand. Combining his admiration for both the elegance of Japanese carpentry and the wit of the Memphis Group, Okuda’s distinct visual language relies on a basic vocabulary of rectangles, cylinders and circles cut primarily from plywood and rhythmically assembled into sculptural forms: bookcases made from cascading stacks of rectangles, for example, scalloped with rows of semi-circles, or a simple rec- tangular coffee table that appears to float above the floor. It bears a playful humor reminiscent of the work of Ettore Sottsass or Peter Shire, although Okuda’s work is more subdued: in lieu of pattern, his finishes of choice are either solid blocks of colored lacquer or a simple coat of oil on pale Baltic birch.
The vast majority of Okuda’s pieces are one-offs, the result of collaborative commissions that typically come to him via word of mouth. Having worked as a fabricator for artists including T. Kelly Mason and Jorge Pardo, he maintains close ties to the art world: over the years, he’s made a vanity table for ceramic artist Shio Kusaka, an executive desk for Los Angeles’s Matthew Brown Gallery, and seating for both the Dallas Art Fair and NADA Miami. For Los Angeles fashion retailer Creatures of Comfort, he’s designed interiors, and for A.L. Steiner, he crafted Selexxx: 1995—2025 (2015), the card catalogue and desk piece central to the artist’s 2015 solo show at Blum & Poe.
Text by Janelle Zara, read the full story herePhotographed for Frieze in Los Angeles, CA