Highlights from the Collection: Niho Kozuru’s "The Rising Column"

Niho Kozuru, The Rising Column, 2005
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On View Mar 15, 2017 - Sep 05, 2017
Exhibition Location: Window Arcade Gallery

Window Arcade Gallery

The display of this sculpture in deCordova’s Window Arcade Gallery is part of a program that brings focus to exceptional artworks from deCordova’s permanent collection. Works are rotated periodically, allowing visitors to experience rarely seen pieces.

Kozuru’s vibrant sculptures blend the elegant forms of American Colonial architecture with unexpected materials and colors. The Boston-based Japanese artist reimagines these traditional wood-turned elements using glass, rubber and, most recently, wax. Her use of New England domestic architecture stems from her childhood home in Topsfield, Massachusetts, and an interest in the relationship between personal history and physical space.

The Rising Column is a cast rubber sculpture comprised of stacked architectural details molded directly from balusters, finials, and monumental urns. By reconfiguring only the decorative elements of classical objects and casting them in colorful polymer, Kozuru has created a towering abstraction with undulating contours. She uses rubber for its transparency and the way it interacts with light. The placement of The Rising Column in deCordova’s Window Arcade Gallery allows it to be activated by shifting light conditions over the course of the day.

As part of the Highlights initiative, individuals from outside the Museum are invited to lend their voices and insights to our program. Meredyth Hyatt Moses, a close friend and former gallerist of Kozuru, reflects on the development of the artist’s work:

It was a busy day at Clark Gallery when I first met Niho Kozuru. I was finishing the installation of our annual Salon Exhibition when she called, and I had no interest in looking at new work. However, she was persuasive, so I suggested she bring the work out for me to see. Her small, beautiful sand casted glass objects were delicate and timeless. I included her work in that show and several thereafter.

When Niho was twelve, her parents brought their children from Japan to America and settled in an old farmhouse in Topsfield. The elegance of her father’s ceramic work has made him a national treasure of Japan. While living in Topsfield, he began to make exquisite large ceramic columns, seeking a more contemporary way to express his art. I wonder if his journey influenced Niho to freely experiment with new materials such as glass and later rubber, which she had discovered while making sculptural molds in graduate school in Hawaii. A professor suggested she visit the Mission Houses Museum in Honolulu. She was surprised to learn that it had been shipped board by board from Boston in 1821, and closely resembled her New England home. She realized that objects such as turned wood forms, so ubiquitous here in New England, express a whole new meaning and possess the powerful symbolism of cultural influence once placed in a different context. It was at that moment she decided to use those architectural elements in her art. Perhaps this was her way of connecting all the history of the Kozuru family.

I have watched with enormous interest throughout Niho’s successful career. She is a deep-thinking and far-reaching artist. I am grateful that I discovered her early in her development, allowing me to participate in the evolution of her success. The intuitive recognition by chance on that first meeting has born fruit for us both.

 -Meredyth Hyatt Moss

Born in Japan, Kozuru descends from a long line of ceramic artists based in Fukuoka. She earned a BFA from the Parsons School of Design, New York, and an MFA from the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. She was nominated for the James and Audrey Foster Prize at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston in 2006, and she was included in The 2008 DeCordova Annual Exhibition. Her work was recently featured in Plastic Imagination at the Fitchburg Art Museum.