Creating a "work that viewers will associate with Japanese gardens," Kunishima conceived Stonerise not only as sculpture but as a place where people will "look into the spaces of the sculpture of found stones and quarried stone and think of the vastness of nature." He designed his work "for people to see, contemplate, and perhaps to interact with." And he installed his work in a plaza "for people who are in search of space in the big, growing downtown contemporary city so they may relax and enjoy the experience."
With its massive presence and subtle detail, Stonerise should be viewed close-up as well as from afar. It should also be seen slowly and from all sides. But above all, it should be felt within the context of its intimate outdoor enclosure. Kunishima separates four large black African granite blocks, each weighing 10 tons, with seven small black Indian granite stones. Roughly textured with marks from picks and chisels, the exterior surface of the African granite presents a striking contrast with the machine polished interior surface. The natural materials and horizontal lines of the sculpture contrast with the manufactured materials and vertical thrust of the surrounding architecture. Recalling a shakkei, or "borrowed scenery" garden, the mirror-like surface reflects and captures the monumental skyline of downtown.
The $92,000 commission was mandated by the Community Redevelopment Agency as a percent for art requirement for constructing the branch of the California First Bank (now Union Bank). Toshikazu Terasawa, FAIA, the building's Nisei architect, suggested the sculpture be placed either in front of the entrance or in the quiet and partially secluded courtyard over the portal of the adjacent parking garage. After selecting the latter site in 1981, Kunishima offered the architect and the developer, California First Bank, a choice of three different designs. The one selected was subsequently altered by Kunishima, who reduced the number of stones separating the African granite blocks from nine to seven. In 1984, the stone for the sculpture was cut and prepared in Nagoya, Japan and shipped to Los Angeles.
Before the installation, Kunishima and Terasawa agreed to place planters along the edge of the plaza and to construct a grey granite and concrete pedestal for the sculpture incised on the top with radiating lines to focus attention to the sculpture. However, not everything Kunishima and Terasawa proposed was accepted. Kunishima suggested a grassy area in the enclosed plaza, but this was rejected because of maintenance costs. The architect wanted the sculpture to include metal, as is typical of many of Kunishima's works, but Kunishima wanted only stone to emphasize the contrast between the natural world and the man-made materials of the surrounding buildings.
The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, November 1997.
Back to Little Tokyo.