Joseph Goto Biography

Joseph Goto




Joseph Goto was born in Hilo, Hawaii on January 7, 1916. He learned welding in the US Army during WWII. In the late 1940s, Goto and his younger brother Byron studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph's interest being sculpture. The artist spoke about his background in an interview:

"During the war I went to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and studied drawing. I was interested in art but not seriously - just as a hobby. I did some watercolor. After the war, I was accepted at the Art Institute of Chicago. I wasn't very serious when I started. I wanted to be a painter. I was majoring in painting and drawing and minoring in printmaking and ceramics. Then I got introduced to steel sculpture during my last year - it got me all excited about being a sculptor. I had lots of encouragement; the Museum of Modern Art bought a piece in Chicago and I got a grant and a fellowship. That kept me going, and I began to work harder. I worked in Chicago for a while and won some prizes. lots of enthusiasm and encouragement in Chicago.

From Chicago I went to Virginia to teach. I taught there for a year and then went to the University of Michigan. From Michigan I came to Rhode Island.

I think what made me go into steel sculpture is that I had a background in steel work. I worked for the Army Engineers and the Red Hill underground project. I knew something about rigging and steel work. My last sculpture is steel work. It's not welded sculpture; it's not sheet metal work; it's solid steel. I feel like a steel worker when I'm working with sculpture. I work in steel plate.

The reason for switching from small steel sculpture to large scale is that I was not using my potential. I like to related my work to sculpture and not objects. My concept of steel is to use it for sculpture purposes and not as industrial objects. I've welded industrial objects - tanks and such - very beautiful in themselves. But they don't call such things sculpture; they call them whatever they are. There's a purpose to them, whereas my things have no purpose. They just sit there. I try to get as far away as I can from industrial things.

Cutting the steel is like carving, as in the Matisse and Picasso cutouts. It's not mechanical. It's not a logical thing that you learn; it comes from long experience. It's the feeling of being right, but not the right calculations. It goes beyond calculations, and so you can't repeat it

His first exhibition in New York was at the Stephen Radich Gallery in the early 1960s; his last was at the Zabriskie Gallery in 1973. His works, which ranged from table-top pieces to monumental outdoor sculptures, continued a tradition of improvisational welded composition started by David Smith. Over the years he held teaching positions at the University of Michigan, Brandeis University, Carnegie-Mellon University and the Rhode Island School of Design, which mounted a retrospective of his work in 1971. His work is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Joseph Goto died in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on January 18, 1994,