Kaino is known internationally for his expansive vision and activist-minded practice, which encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, performance, monumental public art, theatrical production, and feature film. Examining a wide range of political, social, and environmental issues in his work, Kaino takes a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to art making. His work brings together systems of knowledge, forms of production, and people that do not normally have a chance to connect, and often involves long-term partnerships with a diverse array of visionary collaborators. Kaino’s work in any media and within any system is distinguished by his obsessive investment in technical virtuosity, functionality, and legitimacy.
The artist’s practice, which has focused on equity, social justice, and climate change, among other urgent topics, traces throughlines among various art historical movements, including Arte Povera, Conceptualism, and performance art. A relentless optimist, Kaino creates work that is imbued with hope, revealing structures of power and domination and creating opportunities for direct action and progress, all rooted in the belief that cultural production can affect real change. Kaino often highlights the illusionistic and mesmeric effects of scientific and natural phenomena in his large-scale installations to explore notions of empathy and subjectivity and to bring legibility to the often invisible forces that shape our world.
Kaino’s current solo exhibition at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, reflects the artist’s interest in how paradigmatic shifts might be rendered visually. Titled In the Light of a Shadow and running through September 2022, the presentation features a monumental, immersive installation considering the links between protests that have taken place across different time periods and locations around the world. The artist’s participatory installation Tidepools, which comprises cloud chambers that make cosmic particles visible and a bioluminescent wishing well, will debut at Compound, a new Long Beach, California–based center for contemporary art and wellness, in July. Works from his nearly ten-year collaboration with Tommie Smith, whose historic salute for human rights at the 1968 Olympic Games stands today as an iconic gesture of strength and activism, will be exhibited this fall at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.