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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Obos I

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Obos I


George Tsutakawa

born 1910, Seattle, Washington; died 1997 Seattle

Obos is a Japanese term for a pile of rocks, a configuration that reminds us of human presence and the power of creations wrought by human hands. It stands as the mysterious products of another’s imagination, evidence of the human need to leave one’s mark in the world. “I was here,” the Obos seems to say.

Tsutakawa has invoked Japanese cultural theory and artistic practice to elevate found objects to pure abstraction.
23 1/4 x 9 3/4 in. x 8 7/8 in.
Gift of Seattle Art Museum Guild
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modern Art Pavilion, Tribute to Zoe Dusanne, Mar. 24 - May 8, 1977.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest Traditions, 1978.

Osaka, Japan, National Museum of Art, Pacific Northwest Artists and Japan, Oct. 2 - Nov. 28, 1982 (Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Jan. 28 - Feb. 28, 1983).

Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue Art Museum, School of Art, University of Washington: 1920-1960, July 16 - Sept. 25, 1983.

Port Angeles, Washington, Port Angeles Fine Art Center, George Tsutakawa, Nov. 22 - Dec. 29, 1986.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Views and Visions in the Pacific Northwest, June 7 - Sept. 2, 1990.

Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue Art Museum, Eternal Laughter: A Sixty-Year Retrospective Of the Work Of George Tsutakawa, Sept. 15 - Nov. 2, 1990.

Seattle, Washington, Foster/White Gallery, George Tsutakawa, Jan. 6 - 30, 1994.

Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, Jet Dreams: The Northwest In The Fifties, Mar. 17 - June 4, 1995.

La Conner, Washington, Museum of Northwest Art, Northwest Art: Shaped by Hand, Shaped by the Spirit, Sept. 28 - Dec. 31, 1995.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Collection Highlights: 1945 To The Present, Sept. 12, 1996 - June 1, 1997.

New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, Mar. 23 - July 31, 1997.

Seattle, Washington, Henry Art Gallery, What It Meant to Be Modern: Seattle Art at Mid-Century, Oct. 15, 1999 - Jan. 23, 2000.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Mark Tobey: Smashing Forms and Mark Tobey and Friends, Nov. 16, 2002 - Apr. 6, 2003.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, International Abstraction: Making Painting Real, May 2, 2003 - Feb. 29, 2004.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, Dec. 14, 2019 - Sept. 6, 2021.

Bainbridge Island, Washington, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, George Tsutakawa: Language of Nature, July 1 - Oct. 9, 2022.
Published ReferencesJohns, Barbara. Modern Art from the Pacific Northwest in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1990; cat. no. 13, p. 17.

Selected Works. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, p. 122.

Delson, Susan. "The Intimite Beauty of Honest Craft." Wall Street Journal, November 30 - December 1, 2019: p. C14, reproduced. [A version of this article appears online on November 27, 2019:]

Johns, Barbara. Kenjiro Nomura American Modernist: An Issei Artist's Journey. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2021; p. 112, reproduced fig. 4.27.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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