Artist John Koga Fashions Himself a New Design Career
The Hawaiian sculptor launches a lighting and furniture collection exclusive to Ralph Pucci
This month, legendary designer and gallerist Ralph Pucci revealed a new show of fine art, graphic design, and lighting sculptures in his New York showroom. That last category represents the Honolulu-based artist John Koga’s first foray into lighting and furniture. Or, as Koga puts it, “a medium that I work in, but am now thinking of with more functionality.”
The pieces, of which there are nine in total, are not entirely removed from Koga’s MO: modernist, abstract forms—some that retain a cephalopod-like or extraterrestrial appearance—influenced by the creator’s natural surroundings in Honolulu. “Hawaii, the physical beauty of it—how can you not be inspired?” he asks. “My aim is to, without re-creating it photographically, get the feeling of Hawaii. I kind of draw on what I call the soul or the essence of what the mountain, or the clouds on the mountain, or just a stone might feel like. All of my work is based on this.” With all of his work, Koga says, he seeks to push the boundaries of a linear, single-lane approach and intent. “I’m fascinated by the path that, say, Isamu Noguchi took—with all the arts, all this creativity, mixing dance, music, sculpture, furniture, and, of course, lighting,” he says. “I thought, How do we incorporate everything together?”
Koga, as an artist, has been represented by Ralph Pucci since 2007 after a chance meeting at the opening of a Neiman Marcus in Honolulu. “Early on, we did a show with my stone sculptures,” he says. “That’s sort of how this whole process started. I never asked if I could design furniture. I was sort of shy on that side, but when Ralph brought it up, I was super excited!”
That’s when Koga began to sketch; from there, he’d make tiny clay models. (“I can work pretty small, like in the palm of my hand,” he says.) Then he’d send images to New York, until the final executions were decided upon.
Pieces from the new collection are made of Plasterglas, a unique fiberglass resin owned by the Ralph Pucci company. And they’re as eye-catching as one might expect of a Koga “spirit:” There’s a three-pronged bulbous chandelier, a kind of reptilian-alien paw descending from space; a stand-up table and floor lamps with nebulous, punctuated bases; an arced chair that can be flipped into a two-top side table; and another hanging object that seems childishly ocular in its amorphousness.
“This is a Pucci-Koga kind of thing,” Koga adds. When he went from the flight—direct from Honolulu, at a long nine or so hours—to the showroom, he was “overjoyed” with the results. “He’s producing it, and I'm the designer… which is kind of amazing,” he says with a laugh.
In addition to Koga’s pieces, the new Ralph Pucci show hosts works by Hervé van der Straeten, James hd Brown, Josef Astor, Chris Makos, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. And even though this fresh venture has only just started, really, Koga admits he is already eager for more. “My brain,” he says, “it can’t stop thinking about new designs.”
Article By Nick Remsen