Sculptor Yoshitomo Saito combines differently textured objects from the natural world in his art, finding harmony and whimsy in the results. A regular visitor to the San Francisco gallery scene, he explores new terrain with bronze, his longtime material of choice, in a current exhibition of recent work.
“Ethos in Bronze,” Saito’s 10th show at Haines Gallery on view through Aug. 30, contains more than 20 bronze sculptures created by Saito, ranging from freestanding pieces to an extensive wall installation.
The works feature fragments of nature representing the landscape of Colorado, where Saito lives, or Japan, where he grew up, or, often, intriguingly, both places. Conifer sprigs intersect with bamboo sticks, among other incongruities.
Cheryl Haines, whose gallery began exhibiting Saito’s work more than two decades ago, says that two qualities distinguish the career of this artist: his “dedication to creating remarkable objects in a medium as difficult as bronze” and his “ability to continually reinvent his practice in ways that both surprise and engage the viewer.”
“Ethos in Bronze” represents “both the pinnacle of Yoshi’s technical prowess and the depth of his singular imagination,” she adds.
Unlike many artists working in bronze, Saito doesn’t use an outside foundry. He casts his sculptures himself at his Denver studio and uses the labor-intensive process of lost-wax, or investment-mold, casting.
The exhibition showcases a new approach by Saito: grinding all or some of the surface of each piece to expose the natural texture and color of the bronze.
Also significant is the music of avant-grade French composer Erik Satie, which is characterized by spareness, eccentricity and lack of sentimentality. Satie’s late-19th-century “Gymnopedies” and “Gnossiennes” piano compositions, reflected in the titles of Saito’s bronzes, have been cited by the artist as influences.
“Gymnopedies: Loop,” a 34-by-24-by-4-inch wall piece with an East-meets-West quality, features a tangle of bronze circles suggesting a cowboy lasso made of bamboo. Pine needles appear to have merged with the metal on a stretch of this rigid rope.
“Gnossiennes: Beehive Cart,” a larger, fanciful, freestanding creation, contains a log-like form covered with roots and other fragile matter, from which a whirling ribbon of bronze springs upward. It rests on a stool-like foundation of rough branches. Four shopping-cart wheels sit playfully at the bottom.
A main attraction is an installation of “Golden Stitch” works. Inspired by a Colorado flood that caused seemingly incompatible objects — spiky rods, sinuous pods, a manmade bowl — to entwine, these pieces convey unlikely harmony.
Saito’s work has also been shown at the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the de Young Museum, the Oakland Museum of California and the California College of the Arts.
IF YOU GO
Yoshitomo Saito: Ethos in Bronze
Where: Haines Gallery, 49 Geary St., S.F.
When: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes Aug. 30