Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Ink-Slinger Profiles: Bob Kuwahara
Robert "Bob" Kuwahara was born in Tokyo, Japan on August 12, 1901, according to Kuwahara's biographical sketch at the In Memoriam page of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) website. Wikipedia said his Japanese name was Rokuro. The NCS bio said he, "…came to good ol' U.S.A. in 1910…held a book upside down the first day in school but managed to get away with a sheepskin from the Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in 1921…" Asian American Art, 1850-1970 (2008) said he lived in Santa Barbara, California from 1910 to 1914, then in Los Angeles. The newsletter, Santa Anita Pacemaker (California), July 1, 1942, published "Former Studio Artist Now Supervises Art Classes" which said, "…Kuwahara got his start as a cartoonist for the Poly Optimist, a Los Angeles high school newspaper. He attended the Otis Art institute then went to New York where he did portrait work for well-known book publishers."
The 1920 U.S. Federal Census recorded Rokuro Kuwahara in Los Angeles at 138 Carr Street. He was the youngest of six children born to Yusho and Yoshio. His father operated a laundry. According to the NCS bio, "…followed 7 years of drawing and painting at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles…off to New York in May, 1929 for a fling at commercial art…Crash!…You know what happened in 1929…"
…worked as an editor of the English section of the Rafu Nichi-Bei newspaper. After resigning from the Rafu Nichi-Bei in 1929, Kuwahara held a successful solo-exhibition of pastel portraits and pen sketches at the Olympic Hotel in Los Angeles and sold thirty-two pieces. The Rafu Shimpo newspaper reproduced two of Kuwahara's sketches…with a review of the show….Shortly after this success, Kuwahara moved to New York City to work as a freelance portraitist and artist for various book publishers.
In the 1930 census he lived in the Bronx, New York at 950 Woodycrest Avenue, apartment B25. He was a commercial artist. His roommate, Thomas Hayakawa, was a translator. His drawing of Ralph Waldo Emerson was recorded in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, Etc. 1930 New Series, Volume 25, Number 3. The New York Times, April 3, 1932, published a portrait of Emerson by Kuwahara. The portrait was copyrighted by William Edwin Rudge, a book publisher, who produced an Emerson book, Uncollected Lectures, in 1932. Evidently, Kuwahara's drawing was based on a photograph.
During internment, Kuwahara and his family were held first at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and then at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Kuwahara's accomplishments were well known to camp supervisors. While at Santa Anita, Kuwahara was allowed to teach art classes twice a week.
The Santa Anita Assembly Center was in use for six months, April to September 1942. The center's newsletter, Santa Anita Pacemaker, was published during that time. Kuwahara was mentioned in the following issues: June 3, 1942, page 3, "Candidates for Election"; June 6, 1942, page 1, "Art Classes"; July 1, 1942, page 2, "Royal Spartans See Magic", and page 3, "Former Studio Artist Now Supervises Art Classes" (available at Genealogy.com); July 4, 1942, page 4, "Creativeness Shown in Handicraft Exhibit."
During the relocation to Heart Mountain, Asian American Art said he collaborated with a group of "Nisei artists that included Hideo Date, Riyo Sato, and Benji Okubo….they practiced their craft, taught art classes to the residents, and displayed their works in shows….In 1943, Kuwahara exhibited a collection of watercolors at the Chicago branch of the American Friends Service Committee." With his release in 1943, he moved to Chicago to work as a commercial artist. The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Etc. 1944 New Series, Volume 41, Number 12 had the following entry.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles