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Ceramic Street Artist Zenka Takes on Virtual Reality

12:07 PM PST on March 6, 2015


LA based ceramic street artist Zenka will be doing a virtual reality art show at the District Gallery in the downtown arts district this Saturday, March 7 from 7-10pm.

She will be showing off her humorous collection of 30 virtual reality heads from 1965-2015. There will be DYI ceramic street art plaque kits and wheat paste posters as well.

Zenka puts up her ceramic street art sculptures all over the world without permission. Sometimes they are taken down right away, other times they become beloved parts of the urban fabric. Her interest in Virtual Reality, and especially the history of the format, lead to an entire show being done on the subject which will explore not only her art but the entire concept of VR.  Keep reading for some preview images, and insight into the show...

Opening night will feature:

- Signed, limited edition show poster giveaways
- An Oculus Rift VR headset to test drive
- Google Cardboard VR giveaways
- Augmented reality demos - Beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres.

Full Press Release:

An Artist Walks Us through 50 Years of Virtual Reality

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015: The Year of VR

2015 will be known as "The Year of Virtual Reality". The nausea associated with the early prototypes and false starts of the prior decades are finally behind us.

This year almost every major tech company is scrambling to get their headsets on the market: Google (Cardboard), Sony (SmartEyeglasses), Facebook (Oculus Rift), Samsung (Gear VR), Valve (Vive), Microsoft (Hololens), Apple (VR), and the list goes on...)

The history of the future, (at least the digital future) has become the obsession of LA based artist, Zenka. She has sculpted more than 30 life-sized ceramic raku masks depicting augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets from the 1960s to the present.

The early VR and AR prototypes are often large and cumbersome and Zenka’s work captures the humor and nostalgia for these clumsy high tech beginnings. The work inspires meditations on how nothing seems more oddly dated than past visions of obsolete futures.


Zenka’s headset sculptures range from three early NASA VR contraptions all the way up to the recently debuted Microsoft HoloLens and the recently retired Google Glass.  Most of the goggles are mere prototypes including Meta's Space Glasses and Sony SmartEyeglasses.  Visitors can see many of the early incarnations of Oculus Rift as the headset design has progressed from a crowd funded Kickstarter campaign to a $2 billion company.

Visitors will also see a sculptural representation of Google Cardboard VR - sculpted in clay and lit from the inside.   Curious about what's inside?  Google cardboard goggles will be on hand at the gallery throughout the show for anyone who wants to ride a virtual roller coaster or step into the streets of Hong Kong.


The sculptures capture people in the height of their emotional engagement - whether that be bliss or horror, wonderment or shock.

"The show's title, 'Presence', not only speaks to the fact that the subjects depicted are ironically sealed in their own worlds - it it is actually a virtual reality buzz-word used to describe the strange tipping point when a person's brain and body miraculously click over to a point where VR becomes "physically" real to them." says, Zenka.

When a headset achieves presence, she explains, "There is no way your body would let you jump off a bridge in this state, even though it is fictional."  The experience is only available on very high end HMD (head mounted displays) when 9 technical specs are present (such as field of view, refresh rate, latency, resolution etc.). Virtual reality "immersion" is the next best thing.


Zenka's ceramic sculptures for this exhibition are raku fired.  Raku is a 16th century Japanese firing technique that was westernized and reinvented in Los Angeles in the 1960's.  This was being done at the same time Ivan Sutherland was inventing the very first virtual reality headset he called the “Ultimate Display”.


Raku firing involves removing red hot ceramics from a kiln at a temperature of 1750 degrees and then dumping them into a metal can filled with paper which immediately bursts into flames.  Closing the lid on the can deprives the glazes of oxygen causing the metals to produce unpredictable iridescent effects.  Smoke soaks into the unglazed clay to create rich black matt surfaces.

"I am drawn to raku because the rustic, crackle and iridescent glaze effects give my futuristic sculptures the feeling that they have been dug out of an architectural dig from the past." says Zenka.

Los Angeles Ceramic Street Art

Zenka has been working in the unique field of ceramic street art since 1989 when she started guerrilla installing life size mosaic sidewalk stars for ordinary people in Hollywood.

Her tag line "Street Art for the Galactic Age" encapsulates her obsession with the future.  Zenka often incorporates augmented reality into her ceramic street art sculptures, which can be seen on the wall just outside District Gallery, at Angel City Brewery and at Art Share in the downtown Arts District in LA.  She also has several mixed media murals (ceramic, paint and augmented reality) in Hollywood and Culver City.


Show Details:

What: “Presence: A Humorous Collection of Virtual Reality Goggles in Clay 1965-2015” by artist Zenka

Where:  District Gallery 740 E. 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90013  (

When:  Opening Saturday March 7th, 7 – 10 pm and running through - April 26th, 2015

Contact:  Jonathan Jerald, District Gallery, 213 814

High Resolution Images for Press:

The show also includes hand printed woodblock and linoleum prints.

More information about the artist at
instagram #hellozenka | facebook

Opening Night Information:

Saturday, March 7th – from 7pm to 10pm


    • Signed limited edition show posters
    • Google cardboard VR giveaways
    • Oculus Rift virtual reality demo
    • Augmented reality demos
    • Beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres


Zenka is a Los Angeles based artist working in ceramic street art and technology.  She has lived and worked in major American cities (NYC, SF, WDC, and Chicago) focusing on film and public art before she fell in love with Argentina, where she became immersed in one of the most prolific street art cultures in the world.

She began painting murals and organized large scale installations.  After her ceramic work took off she started incorporating stained glass into her pieces. In 2013, Zenka returned to the US to join the movement to make LA the predominant arts scene in America.  Zenka began to focus on Raku as her preferred firing technique but she continues to incorporate augmented reality into her ceramic based murals.  She works out of both the Clayhouse and Ceramic Services studios to produce her work.

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