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TOSHIHIRO KATAYAMA

Katayama, Toshihiro
Former Professor Emeritus and Director of The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, dies at age 84. Toshi Katayama, a self taught artist and designer, was born in Osaka, Japan on July 17, 1928. By the time he had graduated from middle school, World War II had just concluded and all of Japan lay smoldering in ruins. Toshi went on to work as a self-taught designer after helping his father with the family trade. In 1963 Toshi was invited by Geigy AG, an influential Swiss graphic design studio located in Basel, Switzerland. He worked in Switzerland for three years helping to create the iconic modern visual symbolism in graphic design that defined the Swiss style of the 1950's and 1960's. He was invited to The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University in 1966 and he has since remained in Boston. Toshi was appointed director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts and served in that position from 1990 to 1995. His significant contribution to arts education is exemplified by his over 30 years of inspiring students at Harvard College and the Graduate School of Design. Toshi's energy and attention to his students was truly extraordinary. Many of his students have become accomplished design professionals worldwide; all credit Toshi for providing them with an outstanding foundation for creative design thinking and problem solving. He never lowered his standards and constantly challenged his students to create inspired work. He became the steward of design excellence within the University. For all his time and dedication to teaching, Toshi was also a prolific artist with hundreds of finished works including paintings, drawings, sculpture and public art installations. He has collaborated with many designers, but worked most closely with the late Kenzo Tange, one of Japan's most notable modern architects. Mr. Katayama's work speaks to many different cultures, being grounded in Japanese tradition and aesthetic sensibility with an emphasis on simplicity of form tempered with an appreciation of Western influences. His work adheres to formal aesthetic principles of organized structure with a playfulness and serendipity of the beauty of nature. Toshi's work has been exhibited in Europe, Japan and the United States. A retrospective of his work was curated in 1995 at the Carpenter Center as a farewell for his 30 years of dedication to Harvard. Toshi's work has inspired so many, the enjoyment he experienced in the creative process is contagious to all who view or experience his work. From his early graphic posters, to his abstract drawings of "Archi-Space" to his full scale installations in Japan and in Porter Square Plaza in Cambridge, he has left an indelible mark on the world of design and art. Toshi is survived by his devoted wife and best friend Atsumi Fukui Katayama. A celebration of his life will be held later this winter at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University.

Published in The Boston Globe on Jan. 12, 2013
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