A Review of Reflection and Abstraction: George Tsutakawa Centennial

Nagisa Leonard December 1, 2010 Comments Off on A Review of Reflection and Abstraction: George Tsutakawa Centennial
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“G-step” by Gerard Tsutakawa. Photo credit: Woodside/Braseth Gallery.

The work of father and son artists George and Gerard Tsutakawa is on display in an exhibition entitled “Reflection and Abstraction” at Seattle’s Woodside/Braseth Gallery until Dec. 23. The exhibition celebrates what would have been George’s 100th year and shows a Northwest art legacy passed from one generation to the next. Although each artist possesses a distinct and vastly different style, both master sculptors convey a love of form that transcends the mere material components and speaks to the viewer on a metaphysical level.

Renowned for his public fountains in various countries, George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) is truly a Northwest icon. Among the pieces on display, the model for his iconic “Fountain of Wisdom,” designed for the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library, shows with great clarity his masterful hand. The work possesses an assembled quality in which the pieces come together to form a strange and beautiful abstraction.

Also on display are several of George’s sumi paintings, which prove to be an intriguing element of his repertoire. The bold forms, reminiscent of sculpture itself, are captured in ink on paper in a manner that reveals the artist’s deep appreciation of nature. In “Eternal Forest, Lake Kachees” a certain duality is achieved between wet and dry brushstrokes — between thick areas of ink and delicate lines. The tree stumps in front lie in stark contrast to the thick forests in back, lending a dreamlike contrast to the piece.

George and Gerard Tsutakawa (Father and Son), Artist’s studio, 1957. Photo credit: Woodside/Braseth Gallery.

The work of Gerard Tsutakawa also connects strongly to themes involving nature, but he takes a different approach. As an artist, Gerard must have felt compelled to differentiate his own work from that of his father, in the face of inevitable comparisons. The younger Tsutakawa is at his strongest when he does not force this differentiation, but simply expresses his own personal vision and creative message.

In a large-scale piece entitled “Uzumaki” he shines, displaying a love of the medium in both the grand balance of this bronze, spiral-shaped sculpture and in the small details such as the beautiful surface luster. There is a flexibility and dynamism that captures a weighty density and force, condensing the enigmatic quality inward. When circumnavigating this work, the interplay of positive and negative space is interesting from a multitude of vantage points, and the various shadows make it something worth viewing at length.

Those with an interest in sculpture cannot miss this exhibition, for no photograph can truly capture the physical force of sculpted metal. At the hands of master sculptors such as George and Gerard Tsutakawa, the viewer is no longer looking at mere objects but at a conveyed concept, beautifully presented to please both our aesthetic sensibilities and our desire for a deeper meaning.

The exhibit is on display at the Seattle’s Woodside/Braseth Gallery, located at 2101 9th Avenue on Lenora Street, until December 23.

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