Michihiro Kosuge, "Bones." Photo by Aaron Johanson.

A 70-year-old sculptor raised in post-World War II Japan who has refined himself into a regional fixture by channeling Oregon’s calmer spirit into stone. A 36-year-old upstart from New York who incorporates cast-offs from fine interior and craft furniture buildouts into his sculptural critiques of commercialism. At first glance, Michihiro Kosuge and Ned Colclough would seem an odd couple. But to the keen eye of Kristan Kennedy, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s visual art curator, they are a perfect pairing for the exhibition titled New Arrangements that opens with a reception on March 16.

"I wanted to bring them together because they have a lot to express,” says Kennedy. “Both are dealing with this very formal aspect of positive and negative space—what creates it and what is the contained or expansive energy of a sculpture—in a very different way." And both are inspired by their homes and the complex themes they naturally incite. “It's not so much East versus West, but New York paired with a [Northwest] regional sensibility,” she adds.

Kosuge was born in Tokyo and grew up playing in the wreckage of World War II—he has vivid memories of fishing out of a bomb crater while staring at Mt. Fuji—before moving to America to earn an MFA in sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute. The quiet image of an established artist, he’s lived in Oregon for decades, shown across the West Coast, and was the longtime companion of gallerist Laura Russo until her death in 2010. His work is derived from this context, resonating the calm meditative qualities of Oregon through his varying textures of rough and polished stone-work. New Arrangements will include a variety of his work drawn from over 10 years.

Ned Colclough, "Street Dance." Courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery.

Colclough, on the other hand, is from the crowded, frenetic bustle of New York's streets. With a BFA from the NYSCC School of Art and Design, he does fancy interior and craft furniture buildouts and then uses the remains, as well as materials gathered from places like stone yards and hardware stores, to create minimalist work that’s steeped in the history of scultpure, to say nothing of the big apple's commercialism.

The two produce work that is physically at odds, but overlaps on a mysterious, more sub-conscious level, which New Arrangements will attempt to express. “The objects have a very different presence,” says Kennedy. “You have this heavy thing that Michi's doing that suddenly becomes light and has movement in his hands, and you have this light, flim-flam material [from Colclough] that is of a cast-away situation in our modern day world like melamine and scraps of wood and twine and home decor items that are elevated to the status of fine art and sculpture."

Yet for Kennedy, the pieces share a fragility—they're capable of disappearing from a single push. In Kosuge's case, this is true because his pieces require and instill such silent reflection. This reductive sensibility, this stripping away, is also apparent in Colclough's work, which is about refining the unrefined so it becomes serene and stoic, despite being about complex and even aggressive things.

New Arrangements
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA)
Thru May 11
Tue–Fri 11am–6pm; Sat 11am–4pm

Kosuge also recognizes similarities between his and Colclough’s evolution as artists. “Ned was talking about Brancusi and Noguchi and recognized how important those artist are,” says Kosuge. “He has a certain aspect of them in mind, and I went through the same period of being inspired by them as well…Maybe our pieces will be in conversation with each other.”

If that conversation goes as planned, it will create a quiet, elusive magic mined from the talent of these two gifted artists. Suspend expectation at the door.

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