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Kazuo Kadonaga’s works in bamboo, wood, paper and glass are ageless and elemental. All of the objects are made of natural substances, which the artist manipulates in a reverent way, carefully revealing the essence of the material. I am not interested in creating beautiful objects, Kadonaga says. What is of interest to me is discovering and disclosing the (innate) beauty of natural materials.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Kadonaga was born in Japan into a family that had owned vast cedar forests and lumber mills since the beginning of the 20th Century. It was assumed that he would participate in the family business of dealing with wood. In fact, this did happen but not at all in the expected way.

Instead of becoming a businessman, Kazuo became an artist, first a painter, then a sculptor. His subject matter, in painting, was trees. I had taken trees for granted, he says. When I began to study them in paintings I decided I should work directly with the material of the trees, to explore different ways of looking at a tree, not to take a tree for granted. Through cutting and sometimes burnishing or shaving tree trunks myriads of times he exposes the vital heart of the tree.

These pieces, which were conceived in Japan, have traveled widely in the United States, Mexico and Europe for a period of years. Time, climate and distance are important factors in the process of natural transformation occurring to these works that swell and shrink with moisture and dryness. Climatic variation actually subtly changes the structure and appearance of the work, causing the wood, bamboo and paper to reveal more and less according to conditions of humidity.

Kadonaga’s most recent works are luminous mounds of solid silica. The artist approaches glass as he does other materials, with the intent of allowing the material to speak for itself. Rather than blowing, casting or coloring the glass, he simply heats the silica and releases it in a molten stream into a receptacle/kiln. Here he permits it to slowly grow into a billowing form, weighing about a ton. The glass then takes as much as a month to fully harden.

In the different media that he employs, Kadonaga maintains the same exploration of essence and integrity of form. Whether it is propped timber bamboo, a geologic formation of handmade paper or undulations of glass, his sculptures are objects of contemplation. Through meaningfully placing and lighting the work, Kadonaga creates a still, meditative garden within the space of the gallery.

Curator El Camino College Art Gallery


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Installation Views

Wood Details

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