Given the natural
balance and easy interdependence of his materials (glass, marble
and stone), one would think that Ken Matsumoto had his roots
deep in Buddhism where harmony is all -- but not so. He was
raised a Catholic. Deeply committed to telling the truth in
his work, form usually follows function in the shape of vessels
representing a state of being. “I see the objects as metaphors
for the idea that man and nature are one, that the results of
man’s activity on the environment are as much a part of
the natural order as the effects of wind and water.”
Matsumoto, who received
his MFA in 1983 from San Jose State University, has been working
with stone slabs, glass, steel and concrete since 1976. “I
use these materials to conger images of nature and man, of time
and erosion in objects that were free standing as well as wall
first commission in 1985 entailed a public project for the city
of Sunnyvale, California. Entitled “Kneel,” it’s
an impressive monolith that boasts four tons of cast concrete
and river rock. His 1992 Japantown gateway sculptures that were
commissioned by the city of San Jose consist of integrated steel
tube pedestals. An ensuing project took him to Sacramento in
1994 where “2 Rivers” was born; over 1500 lineal
feet of steel rail fencing suggesting rivers.
Matsumoto took on
a new direction in the Arizona State University Tempe project.
“3 Benches” necessitated the designing and fabricating
of the machinery to be used in the work’s creation, which
required 30 tons of Arizona sandstone. “Font” followed
in 1995, dedicated to the Lumbee River in North Carolina; it
stands six feet tall, inspired by the deep darkness of the river.
Exquisite pieces of deeply embedded gold suggest reflections
of stars on water.
By 1996, Matsumoto
was in need of a larger studio, and moved into his current space.
But a year later a fire next door to his studio/gallery nearly
destroyed his establishment and work. “Thankfully, no
harm came to any of the artwork,” recounts the sculptor.
“It would have been years and years of work destroyed.”
Prior to the fire,
he had been considering discontinuing the gallery due to costs,
poor sales, time required to manage the space and book exhibitions,
all of which were a drain on his artistic output. But “the
potential of the gallery and studio mirrored my own creative
potential and energies,” so Art Object, the name of Matsumoto’s
gallery, continues to be a going concern.
It is a very large
space divided into smaller rooms that serve as exhibition spaces;
small, intimate cubbyholes that include strategically placed
sofas. The rebuilt hallway, where the fire took its toll, is
larger than before and grants better visibility to the current
exhibitions of Los Angeles painter Mark Bryan and San Jose’s
Terry Kreiter, whose sculptures are a welcome change.
favourite room is entitled “Grotto,” whose black
walls and strategic lighting are the perfect setting for Matsumoto’s
smaller, intimate pieces: exquisite vessel shaped objects inside
layered window glass; crude rocks sit atop carved out silken
smooth surfaces balancing on twiggy legs.
Long a favourite of San Jose, Ken Matsumoto is the recipient
of the coveted Silicon Valley Fellowship Award for Sculpture.
His work is found in major collections: the cities of San Jose
and Sacramento, Hitachi Corporation in San Francisco, Apple
Computer in San Jose, Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, to name
but a few.
Matsumoto continues to work both sides of the fence juggling
large public projects and delicate studio sculptures. He mentioned
offhandedly that he recently came into possession of a load
of paraffin wax, and that he’s intrigued to no end with
its translucent quality.
To find out where
this might lead and what exhibitions are currently running at
Art Object Gallery, visit Ken’s website at: www.japantownsanjose.org/matsumoto.html