Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trade Center to Get Huge Sculpture,

New York Times, May 7, 1970,

Trade Center to Get Huge Sculpture,

by John Canady,

A sculpture that is expected to be the largest free-standing stone carving of modern times has been commissioned by the Port of New York Authority [sic] for the plaza between the two super-skyscrapers of the World Trade Center, now under construction.

Masayuki Nagare, best known in New York for his sculptured walls of the Japanese Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair, and more recently for a sculpture dedicated at the Juilliard [sic] School on March 30, expects to complete the project in 1973. He began work nearly three years ago, he says, when Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the center, first approached him.

At his studio near Aji on the island of Shikoku, which is 300 miles southwest of Tokyo, Mr. Nagare has been developing the mammoth design in a series of small-scale models and is currently at work on a definitive version, to be examined by a visiting group of commissioners in July.

An Echo of Nature

Including the slab of its marble and granite base, the black granite sculpture will be about 34 feet long, 17 feet wide and more than 14 feet high.

The design consists essentially of two asymmetrical lobes, polished to mirror brilliance and divided by a contrastingly rough gulley [sic] resembling a dry, rocky stream bed. This echo of nature introduced into a steel and glass environment is intentional, and the mirror surface is meant to bring the sky down into the plaza.

In a smaller sculpture for the Bank of America World Headquarters Building in San Francisco, completed last September, Mr. Nagare employed the reflection device effectively.

The sculptor gives a wide range to his estimate of the stone’s weight – anywhere from 150 to 400 tons, depending on how much space can be left inside it. Like the San Francisco sculpture, which weighs about 200 tons, the World Trade Center sculpture will be composed of numerous pieces – "about 30 or 40" – of different sizes and shapes, precisely mortised and supported by an interior brace of steel.

Rather than resting four-square at full length, each lobe of the sculpture will lift gently away from the base slab, as if with an inner life counteracting its weightiness – a characteristic of many Nagare sculptures, large or small.

The completed sculpture will be assembled in Japan and then taken down for shipping and reassembly in New York by Mr. Nagare and members of his staff. Only half in jest, he says that Americans can't do the job because they are "too big to crowd around inside" the structure.

Mr. Nagare, who was born in Nagasaki in 1923, is recognized in America as Japan's leading sculptor, but in his own country he occupies an anomalous position. Strictly a lone wolf, he has never allied himself with one or another of the clannish groups that dominate the Japanese art scene. For this reason, and because his first really enthusiastic reception came from America, most Japanese critics deliberately ignore or denigrate his work, in spite of the fact that he continues to receive important commissions.

There is some resentment among other Japanese artists that Mr. Nagare never attended art school and yet has impressed American critics by his kinship – spiritual rather than stylistic – to the deepest traditions of Japanese art.

The kinship is explained in part by Mr. Nagare’s studies of Zen Buddhism and Shintoism as a young man, and in another part by the fact that his father, who was president of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, believed that every boy should learn to work with his hands. The father apprenticed young Nagare to a series of Japanese traditional craftsmen, including sword makers.

World War II interrupted Mr. Nagare's college studies, and he was trained as a Zero fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Having volunteered for a suicide assignment as a kamikaze pilot, he was waiting for his number to come up when the war ended. Bitter over Japan's defeat, he spent 1946 to 1953 wandering through the country, living with farmers and workers.

During these years the skills acquired during his youthful apprenticeships were applied in occasional stints of wood and stone carving as an itinerant craftsman, or independently in his first ventures into pure sculpture.

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