Born Tokyo, Japan
Shiro Kuramata grew up during World War II and the American Occupation of Japan. In 1953 he graduated from Tokyo polytechnic high school, where he studied woodcraft, and went to work for a furniture company. Soon afterwards he enrolled at the Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo, an institute that taught more Western concepts of interior design. This included the study of chairs, at a time in Japan when even designers maintained traditional Japanese homes where they sat on the floor on tatami mats.
In 1957 Shiro Kuramata was hired by the small department store San-Ai as a designer of showcases as well as floor and window displays. Then, after a brief stint as a freelance designer for the retail giant Matsuy he opened his own office in Tokyo in 1965. Shiro Kuramata’s revolutionary approach to the design of furniture and interiors reflects the tremendous dynamism and flowering of creativity in postwar Japan. He combined the Japanese concept of the unity of the arts with fascination with contemporary Western culture, both high and low. He delighted in the mischievous dislocations of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades; in the Minimalist sculptures of Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, with their geometrical repetitions and incorporation of light; and in furniture designer Ettore Sottsass’s playful spirit and love of bright color.
He joined Sottsass’s collective, the design group ‘Memphis’, based in Milan, at its founding in 1981and considered the Italian designer to be his “maestro.” Shiro Kuramata reassessed the relationship between form and function, imposing his own vision of surreal and minimalist ideals on everyday objects. During the 1970s and 80s, Shiro Kuramata, alert to the numerous possibilities of new technologies and industrial materials, turned to acrylic, glass, aluminum, and steel mesh to create objects that appear to break free of gravity into airy realms of transparency and lightness. His furniture and interiors have been influential both in his native country and abroad. Shiro Kuramta died in 1991 at the age of 57.
Source: Friedman Benda, New York