Background information

Gan Iwashiro, 1977. 120 S. Los Angeles Street
When the New Otani Hotel was refurbished in 1989, Gan Iwashiro gave the hotel permission to relocate his 1977 installation from a patio facing Second and San Pedro to a courtyard in front of the new main entrance at First and San Pedro. What Iwashiro did not discover until after the move was completed was that only half the original 18 pieces of his work were kept at the hotel. The remainder was donated to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Though it no longer represents the intentions of the artist, the work is the earliest public art in Little Tokyo. The Kajima Corporation, which built the international class hotel, hired Iwashiro to organize an art program to fulfill part of the percent- for-art obligation mandated by the Community Redevelopment Agency. He executed silk screen prints for each of the hotel's 344 rooms, as well as commissioned other artists, including Kazuko Matthews, who later executed Sen Bana No Saki (Thousand Blossoms), at the Honda Plaza on 2nd Street, to design pieces for the interior.

For the exterior patio, Iwashiro proposed an ensemble of white marble sections to form a massive flat bed of rock reminiscent in form but not in size or scale to the delicate stepping stones of a tea garden. The concept was approved by the Kajima Corporation, the hotel management and the CRA. After Iwashiro selected the marble at a quarry in Durango, Mexico, local stone masons shaped each piece. Iwashiro then completed the final carving prior to shipping the stone to Los Angeles. Though ranging in height from one to two feet, the sections had a uniform level appearance when they were installed in a sloping patio in 1977. Located next to the driveway, the stones were often used by hotel guests as benches to sit on and as platforms for luggage. Today, the remaining nine pieces at the hotel are haphazardly placed and lack the mass or coherence of the original work.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, January 1998.

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