Light as a Stone in Flight - Page 4

South Bay sculptor Ken Matsumoto evokes nature and man in an earthy, Zen-like aesthetic
Light as a Stone in Flight
Besides being an active artist, Matsumoto also operates the Art Object Gallery, what could be the largest commercial gallery in San Jose—in the heart of Japantown.
Light as a Stone in Flight
Matsumoto's 'Rock Piece (for My Ancestors),' a river stone setting on a raised concrete bed (1983).

Iwasawa gave Matsumoto a one-man show in 2011, with ten percent of the proceeds benefiting victims of the Japanese tsunami.

Matsumoto has become a well-known figure in Japantown, his studio and his Art Object Gallery occupying a storefront and sculpture yard half a block from shops and restaurants.

Inside Matsumoto's studio are a series of stone kami, his sculptural versions of the bowls that are used to pound mochi in Japanese households. (Mochi, a popular rice cake, is pounded during a ceremony called mochitsuki.)

Just outside his door and along North Fifth Street are five ceremonial benches for rest and reflection that he created for the city to honor its Japanese heritage.

It's notable that the name 'Ken Matsumoto' is not seen on these works.

Matsumoto concedes he has never done enough to promote his own work, though major corporations, including Hitachi, HP, Merrill Lynch, and Saks Fifth Avenue, own his work, as do many individuals.

His Art Object Gallery fills room after room with a wide variety of art, much of it local. Openings are crowded, but sales are slow. Irregular hours contribute to that, and there is no dedicated staff. "I do it all," Ken says.

"He mounts really important shows," says Adams Hapner, the city's cultural affairs director. "And people can stop by and see one of the great rock sculptors producing his work. People just love that."

"Ken is the most generous person, and I don't mean just by giving us his work for the [Institute of Contemporary Arts] auction," Cathy Kimball says. "He maintains that gallery space at great expense. He gives exposure to artists who might otherwise not have it, without much expectation of financial gain."

As he looks to the future, Matsumoto, 68, is feeling the past. "I think I'm going to start moving away from stone," he says, citing as one reason "just the physical nature of the work."

On one wall of his gallery hangs a set of Mylar tags that move in the breeze in a shimmering way that suggests water. They may also suggest one route for Matsumoto's art.

"What I'm thinking about are compositions that keep changing without the need to provide manipulation," Ken says. "It has to do with the accidental, the serendipity of things."


• For more on the stone art, studio, and gallery of Ken Matsumoto, visit

Photography: Sabrina Huang, Dave Weinstein; and courtesy Ken Matsumoto


Where to View Matsumoto Art

Visitors can take in the art at Art Object Gallery and view Ken Matsumoto's studio by appointment—or by serendipity. 592 North Fifth Street, San Jose. 408-288-9305.

Several of Matsumoto's benches of the 'Ikoi no Ba' Project and other works can be seen on North Fifth alongside his gallery and for several blocks north, including 'East West' at Fifth and Taylor streets.

Iwasawa Oriental Art, 75 University Avenue, Los Gatos also shows Matsumoto's work.

In Sacramento, The Capitol Area East End Complex of state buildings surround two of Matsumoto's sculptures, 'Bowl Fragment (Unearthed Near Auburn)' and 'Sierra Granite,' on Capitol Avenue between 15th and 17th streets.

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