The family of Hirotoshi Ito has been involved in stone work since 1879. Although Hirotoshi Ito was determined to eventually take over his family business, he entered the Metal Work Department of Tokyo University of the Arts. The stimulating encounters with other metal artists in the school, and their work, became the foundation of his way of thinking and of his creativity. The work of Hirotoshi Ito can be divided into two groups. One is solid sculpture carved from marble or granite where Hirotoshi Ito alters the natural surface of the stone into sculptural forms that do not appear to be stone but some other material. The other group is made from beach and river stones where Hirotoshi Ito uses the natural forms of the stones and make alterations and additions that give these natural stones different characters. All of the artworks in both categories relates to the ordinary images, objects and experiences in daily life. A prominent characteristic of both types of the art of Hirotoshi Ito is his attempt to create the illusion that the stone is something more than stone or is a different material altogether.
Hirotoshi Ito is very active in promoting the growing contemporary craft traditions of Nagano area in Japan. Twenty years ago, Hirotoshi Ito and his friends initiated a grass roots project which has grown into an annual craft festival in Matsumoto City, for which he now serves as President.
The bizarre and mind-bending stone sculptures of Hirotoshi Ito really throws us for a loop. In his masterful hands, common rocks become strange, unsettling and humorous creations that will make you look twice. Surprisingly, it all starts in a riverbed in his neighborhood, where Hirotoshi Ito picks up the small rocks he works with. Although most of us consider stone to be a cold, hard and unforgiving material, it is for Hirotoshi Ito the perfect canvas. He says that he would like to show others its big potential to express warmth and humor.
Matsumoto City, where Hirotoshi Ito lives, is surrounded by splendid mountains and is richly endowed with natural beauty. The stones delivered from these mountains have been washed by fresh streams of water over very long periods of time, and each stone has a unique form that has been created naturally. As Hirotoshi Ito gathers stones on the riverbank, he imagines stories and works of art he can create with them. However, Hirotoshi Ito tries to emphasize the natural shapes, colors and beauty of these stones and generally tries not to change their original shapes. Respecting and utilizing the natural characteristics of original material is a very old and important aspect of Japanese culture, mainly the concept of creativity known as Mitate, which involves creating new values by taking something that holds certain significance in one context and placing it in a different context. A typical example is the raked gravel in a temple garden that resembles flowing water. Although Hirotoshi Ito is widely considered as a contemporary artist, he feels that such ancient Japanese concepts are deeply embedded in his DNA.
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