Born in 1931 in Manchuria, China, as a native Japanese, Morimoto grew up in a post-war Japan where he was surrounded by American G.I.s. Idolizing their power and swagger as a young teen, Morimoto became fascinated by these mysterious men and their paraphernalia. In particular, he was enchanted by the graphic quality of the Lucky Strike logo; no matter how the box was turned or flipped, it was immediately recognizable. This led to an obsession with the idea of becoming a graphic designer who could create such universal icons.
Morimoto pursued this dream in 1954 when he moved to Tokyo to work in graphic design. In the 1960s, he decided to venture internationally to New York City, with his wife Noriko. For the next ten years, Morimoto worked at the Herbert Reade Design Studio. While in New York, Morimoto met and befriended many other prominent Japanese artists such as Isamu Noguchi and Genichiro Inokuma, as well as George Nakashima. Morimoto eventually became an apprentice to Inokuma, and ultimately it was Noguchi who encouraged him to pursue sculpture over graphic design.
However, with a growing family, Morimoto decided to leave New York City and the excitement of its art world, in order to fulfill the “American dream.” He moved to the suburbs in Long Island where he not only raised his family, but also opened up one of the first Japanese restaurants on in the 1970s, which became a favorite hideout for celebrities. Having designed much of the restaurant’s furniture himself, for years the restaurant served as a new outlet for Morimoto’s creativity. It is still owned and operated by his family.
Years later, Morimoto decided to finally pursue his dreams of sculpture and woodmaking. He left his Long Island home in 1987 and bought a cabin in Vermont, where he began creating most of his art, design, and furniture pieces largely in isolation. He exhibited these pieces periodically, at local university galleries in Vermont and in Japan, but with little contact with the bustling New York art world he once knew. Although he received sporadic commissions, such as creating custom light sconces for the NOBU restaurant, he remained fairly private about his practice until now.
Morimoto’s pieces capture a sense of the modernist nostalgia and longing for experimentation that he kept inside of him for years. Each hand-carved piece exhibits the warmth of a bygone era and the artist’s pure playfulness. A true artist at heart, the thoughtfulness shown in his process exhibits his devotion to highlighting the natural beauty of that particular piece of wood, and a sense of devotion to falling into unexpected adventure in creating that work. After three decades of honing his craft, Morimoto is no longer active and the remaining pieces from his studio are limited. Available works can only be found here or by contacting the studio.