Tetsuo Ochikubo (1923–1975), also known as Bob Ochikubo, was a Japanese-American painter, sculpture, and printmaker who was born in Waipahu, Hawaii, Honolulu county, Hawaii. During the Second World War, he served with the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After being discharged from the Army, he studied painting and design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Art Students League of New York. In 1953, he spent a year in Japan, studying traditional brush painting and connecting with his ancestry. He worked at Tamarind Institute in the 1960s and is best known for his entirely abstract paintings and lithographs. Along with Satoru Abe, Bumpei Akaji, Edmund Chung, Jerry T. Okimoto, James Park, and Tadashi Sato, Tetsuo Ochikubo was a member of the Metcalf Chateau, a group of seven Asian-American artists with ties to Honolulu. Ochikubo died in Kawaihae, Hawaii in 1975.
Tetsuo Ochikubo's comments on art.
"My ultimate purpose in painting is to be an artist of substance and consequence; to understand and to be understood. I am confident in my work and have progressed, sometimes painfully, surely but slowly.
I can think of nothing finer than to achieve a personality of minimum weakness, to be able to understand life in its thousands of facets, to eliminate arbitrary and contrary truth, to have the function and command of beauty at the tip of my brush. In every way, painting is the medium for achieving my ultimate purpose.
My world is unique. I understand many facets of both East and West. If this area is truly manifest, it is a genuine universal art.
I use symbols, non-symbols, and nature to achieve my artistic objectives. While creating, I express only the affection of my subconscious feeling.
Why do I paint the way I paint? This is the old question for which there is no direct answer. For example, one master said to another, 'I play with six lions.' The other replied, 'I play with one lion.' My art is for myself and no more.
To sit and contemplate is only for fools. As an artist, you must have the plastic proof.
If you want to learn to paint, go out and talk to the trees. If you do not understand her, nature can be a hole out of which there is no escape.
If consistency signifies growth and knowledge, it can also be the oppressor of creativity."
These were the words of Tetsuo Ochikubo, edited by Dr. Laurence Schmeckebier, who was the Dean of the School of Art, Syracuse University.
"In the olden days, if you were going to be an artist you would starve; so my mother didn't want me to be a fine artist. [After the war] I worked as a commercial artist; then I went to Chicago and New York to study fine art. I painted every day, about sixteen hours a day. My wife worked, and so I didn't. As weeks went by I would put less time into my painting because I would get exhausted; so I thought I would do something physical to relax my mind. I started to do carpentry work -- fixing furniture -- [and then turned to printmaking].
An artist should do everything he wants to do. When he gets up in the morning and says, "I want to do a sculpture!" he should be able to go out and do a sculpture. Next morning he can say, "I don't want to do sculpture, I want to print," and then be able to do printing.
I don't classify myself as an abstract artist. If the feeling is abstract, then yes, I am painting abstract -- the feeling and the subconscious emotions are slowing pushed out. Whenever I have an idea, I put it down on paper. I see rocks and tree formations. I get a lot of ideas from nature.
I enjoy printmaking, but it's all physical labor once the design is made, and then I don't have any pleasure in it. My favorite way of printmaking is lithography, somethings combined with etching. Black-and-white is one thing, but with color graphs. you can cut out shapes and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I feel I understand the East and the West. Now my influence is very Oriental. I am very inclined to Oriental philosophy."
This interview was recorded by Francis Haar, only a few months before the artist's death on October 26, 1975. The transcript of the taped interview was edited by the artists widow, Jeanie Ochikubo, and printed in the book Artists of Hawaii, Volume 2.
- Waipahu High School, Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii.
- University of Hawaii, 1946.
- Chicago Art Institute, 1947-48.
- Ray Vogue School of Art, Chicago, 1947-48.
- Art Students League, 1951–52, 1956-60.
- Private instruction in Oriental Brush Painting (with Takehiko Mohri, Tokyo, Japan, 1953).
- Pratt Institute, New York, 1960.
- Instructor, (watercolor and painting), Adult Education Program, McKinley High School, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1950-51.
- Visiting Artist - Department of Art, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi, 1960.
- Supervisor, Graphic Workshop, Art Students League, New York, 1960-61.
- Professor, Mary Washington College, University of Virginia, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1961-63.
- Professor, School of Art, Syracuse University, 1964-72.
- National Endowment for the Arts, Artist in Residence, Hawaii, 1972.
- Professor, School of Art, University of Hawaii, Hilo, 1972-75.
Honors and Distinctions
- Thekla M. Bernays Scholarship, Art Students League, 1956-57.
- John Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship, 1957-58.
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1958-59.
- Tamarind Lithography Workshop Fellowship, Los Angeles, 1960.
Selected Permanent Collections
- The Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii.
- Print Club (now called The Print Center), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Art Students League of New York, New York City, New York.
- The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
- Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.
- Mary Washington College, Williamsburg, Virginia.
- Chrysler Museum of Art, Provincetown, Massachusetts.
- Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.
- Fine Arts Section, US Information Agency, Washington, D.C.
- Oswego State University, Oswego, New York.
- St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York.
- De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
- Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
- Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
Major Commissions in Hawaii
- Hilo Intermediate School, Untitled, Bronze and aluminum sculpture, Hilo, Hawaii, 1972.
- Waiakeawaina Elementary School, Harmony, Copper and steel sculpture, Hilo, Hawaii, 1973.
- Kona Hospital, Altruism, Corten steel and enamel sculpture, Kona, Hawaii, 1975.
One Man Shows
- Library of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1949.
- Club 100, Memorial Building, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1952.
- Honolulu Y.B.A. Hall, Hawaii, 1953.
- Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii, 1955.
- Columbia Museum, Columbia, South Carolina, 1959.
- The Gallery, Hawaii, 1959.
- Tweed Gallery, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 1960.
- University of Mississippi, Mississippi, 1960.
- Delta State College, Mississippi, 1960.
- Krasner Galleries, New York City, New York, 1958-72.
- Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1963.
- Franz Bader Galler, Washington, D.C., 1963.
- Print Club, Pennsylvania, 1964.
- Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, 1964.
- Jewish Community Center, Syracuse, New York, 1966.
- Contemporary Art Center of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1973.
- Matsumoto, Lacy, "Hawaii artist honors late friend with exhibition - Satoru Abe to show his work alongside pieces by Jerry Okimoto at Nu'uanu Gallery", Honolulu Advertiser, July 28, 2008, D1.
- Mark, Steven, "Metcalf Chateau Show", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 27, 2014, F7.
- Schmeckebier, Laurence Eli, Tetsuo Ochikubo, paintings, drawings, lithographs, Syracuse, N.Y., School of Art, Syracuse University, 1964.
- Yoshihara, Lisa A., Collective Visions, 1967-1997, An Exhibition Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Art in Public Places Program, Presented at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, September 3-October 12, 1997, Honolulu, State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, 1997, p. 55.
- Haar, Francis, & Turnbull, Mary, Artists of Hawaii, Volume 2, The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and The University Press of Hawaii/Honolulu, 1977, pp 54 to 58.
- Morse, Marcia, Legacy: Facets of Island Modernism, Honolulu, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2001, ISBN 978-0-937426-48-7, pp. 19, 64-69.
- Wechsler, Jeffrey, Asian Traditions / Modern Expressions, Asian American Artists and Abstraction, 1945 - 1970, Presented at Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey March 23 - July 31, 1997, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois, September 6 - November 2, 1997, Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles (two-site presentation), December 10, 1997 - February 14, 1998.
- Cazimero, Momi W., & Hartwell, Patricia L., & Peebles, Douglas, Retrospective, 1967 - 1987, Presented at AMFAC Plaza Exhibition Room, The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, 1988.
- Munson, Gloria Ursal, Art in Public Places: Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and its cultural significance, University of Hawaii, 1992.
- Morse, Marcia, Legacy: Facets of Island Modernism, Honolulu, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2001, ISBN 978-0-937426-48-7, p. 15
- Papanikolas, Theresa and Stephen Salel, Stephen, Abstract Expressionism, Looking East from the Far West, Honolulu Museum of Art, 2017, ISBN 9780937426920, p. 29
- Mark, Steven, "Metcalf Chateau Show", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 27, 2014, F7
- Matsumoto, Lacy, “Hawaii artist honors late friend with exhibition - Satoru Abe to show his work alongside pieces by Jerry Okimoto at Nu'uanu Gallery”, Honolulu Advertiser, July 28, 2008, D1
- Schmeckebier, Laurence (October 5, 1964). Dean. Syracuse, New York: The School of Art, Syracuse University.
- Haar, Francis; Turnbull, Murray (1977). Artists of Hawaii, Volume 2. Hawaii, USA: The University Press of Hawaii. p. 54. ISBN 0-8248-0467-8.