ISAMU KENMOCHI

1912-1971
Japan

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Isamu Kenmochi is one of the most talented Japanese designers and one of the pioneers of modern Japanese design. He participated to create and define the Japanese industrial design and his participation at Brussels Universal Exhibition in 1958 is only one exemple.

After his graduation of the Tokyo College of Industrial Arts in 1932, he began working for the government at the Industrial Arts Research Institute (IARI) and he was part of the first generation of Japanese industrial designers.
In 1950, his meeting with Isamu Noguchi is a turning point. A young friendship and an iconic collaboration began that summer : the « Bamboo Basket Chair » were born. Isamu Kenmochi’s first idea was to adapt structure and techniques of bamboo seats to seating and backrest of « classic » chairs. It’s important : before the mid-twentieth century, the seatings were not the same in the East and in the West. So the Eastern seats, and more particularly in Japan, were on the ground, it is only after the Second World War and West influences chairs, as we have always known it in the West, began to appear in the Japanese culture. While Isamu Kenmochi was considering a wooden structure, Isamu Noguchi proposed a folded lacquered metal line as the frame of the seat. The result is great with inventiveness and modernity : this easy chair combines obvious formal beauty with a search for texture. The « Bamboo Basket Chair » is a jewel of technic for the period. They combined bamboo properties, its natural elasticity and strength, with metal ones, its durability and efficiency. However, industrial techniques of that time never allowed it to go into production. Only a prototype was created … and lost !
« Bamboo Basket Chair » is one of the most iconic creations of the twentieth century : it is a manifesto of a meeting between East and West in both form and substance. An infinite modernity characterized this design : it has a sculptural essence and a real luminous lightness. Its essential principles comes from the Japanese craft tradition : reassuring warmth, tactile charm and thorough know-how. It was not until 2007 that the story has continued : for the « Design : Isamu Noguchi and Isamu Kenmochi » exhibition at the Noguchi Museum (New York) Kenmochi Design Associates partnered with Shoosaku Kondo and Y.M.K. Co, Ltd., Shioji to put in production for the first time in history this mythical object. Only 50 copies was done thanks to the archives, drawings, plans and photographs of time. These 50 pieces are true museum pieces : today they are the only witnesses to the lost prototype. This is a true renaissance of historical importance in design history.

In 1952, Isamu Kenmochi went for a trip in the United States and did more and more research on industrial art. On his return to Japan the same year, he founds the Japan Industrial Designers Association. Thanks to his training, IARI, his research, this first collaboration and this trip, he is one of the essential characters of Post-War design, in Japan and on the whole world. He uses technological advances to apply them to traditional Japanese materials – as with his friend Isamu Noguchi. His « Rattan Furniture » series is famous for this reason : he uses bamboo and modern technical processes of folding and assembling. And the result is a perfect comfort, furniture pieces of exception.

He is the father of a new generation of designers and thanks to his close relations with the government, he is one of the most famous Japanese creators : his participation in the development of the Japanese pavilion at the Brussels Universal Exhibition in 1958 is a perfect example. He collaborated with Kunio Maekawa and they delivered a pavilion close to the thought Isamu Kenmochi has defended all his life : a pavilion with traditional and modern shapes, combining ancestral Japanese architectural forms and Occidental Modernism. The first rooms Japanese crafts was displayed ; the following ones celebrated the last objects from Japanese industries. Outside and inside were in perfect harmony : the pavilion received the gold medal of the event.

The furniture of Isamu Kenmochi are organic and radical, modern without ever forgetting the tradition. His design is an ode to a Japan full of promises after the Second World War, an uncompromising and poetic design, purified and soothing •

CATALOG :

Coffee table

ISAMU KENMOCHI1965