An exhibit brings together Tsutakawas past and present

The exhibit through Dec. 23 features the work of George Tsutakawa and his son Gerard.

The exhibit through Dec. 23 features the work of George Tsutakawa and his son Gerard.

Seattle's Gordon Woodside/John Braseth Gallery has opened a new exhibit by George and Gerard Tsutakawa, father and son, "Reflection & Abstration," that serves two purposes. First, it brings Gerard Tsutakawa into the Woodside/Braseth stable (he'd been with Foster White) and unites him with his father, whose work the gallery has long represented. And it inaugurates a year of historical exhibitions by major Northwest artists to celebrate the gallery's 50-year anniversary.

George Tsutakawa, who died in 1997, was an iconic figure in the history of Seattle art. A sculptor and painter, he is particularly remembered for his public fountains, in which water itself becomes an artistic and scultpural element.

Until he was 7, Tsutakawa lived on Capitol Hill. He was sent to Japan to live with family members for ten years; upon his return he had trouble relearning English. So, aspiring to become an artist and live in Paris, he taught himself French.

George Tsutakawa spent most of his professional life on the faculty of the University of Washington; Tsutakawa's subtle, grey-black sumi-wash drawings seem particularly suited to Northwest subjects like forests, salmon, and shellfish. Not until 1958 did he move from traditional sculpture and painting to the art form for which he is best known today: public fountains. In the end, he designed dozens of pieces for sites in Japan, North America, and, of course, Seattle. His "Fountain of Wisdom" stands in the shallow plaza outside the central branch of the Seattle Public Library.

Tsutakawa had four children; Gerard, the oldest, is also an accomplished sculptor. His best-known pieces are probably "The Mitt," which stands outside Safeco Field, and a bronze "Thunderbolt" in the driveway of the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. But his loveliest, most serene works are a series Gerard Tsutakawa calls "Uzamaki." They are spirals, loops of bronze that look simple and effortless, a coiled piece of metal in repose, inspired by "imagery, order, and mathematical geometry," the artist says. The largest, perhaps 10 feet across, is on sale for $65,000.

While we're at it, Gerard's brothers are both accomplished musicians. Marcus conducts the Garfield High School orchestra, and Deems is a bandleader and keyboard performer.

If you go: "Reflection & Abstraction:" George Tsutakawa centennial and new works by Gerard Tsutakawa at the Woodside/Braseth Gallery, 2101 Ninth Ave., Seattle, 206-622-7243. Open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. through Dec. 23; admission is free. Online information at


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Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden is a regular Crosscut contributor. His new book, published this month, is titled “HOME GROWN Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink." (Belltown Media. $17.95).