Ten Chi Jin (Heaven, Earth, Man)

Background information

Michael Cullen Todd, 1979. 12'h x 6'w x 7"d. Japanese Village Square
Michael Todd has used circles in most of his work since 1970. What he initially treated as a structural and aesthetic device to frame a space, he later interpreted as a reference to the enso--the circle in Zen brush painting representing the complexities of the universe. At once complete, the enso is everlasting and unlimited yet empty, enclosed and constrained. In the late 1970s, Todd paid homage to the relationship between his works and Japanese culture by creating the Diamaru, Ikebana and Grand Ikebana series. All the works from each series have a variety of rusted steel shapes welded to an oval motif formed from either a single bar or from several bars of steel wiring or tubing.

Ten, Chi, Jin, which is named after the basic components of earth, water and air, is similar in composition and method of execution as the earlier series. Employing improvisation and spontaneity, Todd welded together steel bars as if they were rapidly executed brush strokes, forming an asymmetrical undulating oval. A collection of steel shapes appear to be attached intuitively by magnetism to the rim. This embellishment transforms the edge of the oval into a boundary between a limited interior space and an infinite exterior space. The entire piece is anchored by a triangular plate in a raised flower bed.

Todd would have preferred the sculpture be placed in a quiet setting and be seen against a white wall or the sky. At its present location in a busy walkway of the Japanese Village Plaza, the piece, with its small delicate features and dark color, sometimes disappears into the surrounding architecture, signs and landscaping.

The $18,000 commission was funded by the Friends of Little Tokyo Arts, the Hollywood Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Tortue Gallery, Kathryn Doi Todd and the Japanese Village Plaza. Shortly after its installation, the sculpture was donated by FOLTA to the City of Los Angeles and is now part of the city's permanent art collection.



The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, December 1997.

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