photo from TruShu’s stream
Hirotoshi Itoh
Keiko Gallery

The author and title have long slipped my mind, but I once saw a poem lamenting how arbitrary we can be in calling certain things alive, and others not. Though many of them contain remnants of life, biologically speaking, stones are not alive. But who has felt a smooth, ancient pebble warm against the cupped palm, without feeling some affinity – some sense of a shared heritage?

Hirotoshi Itoh’s sculptures tap into the numinous sense that stones, too, live. But he’s hardly all mystical and spiritual about it; in fact, he’s downright silly. His stones are full of coins, shells, coffee beans, grinning teeth, the silk lining of a purse – and they “open” with zippers! Itoh’s stones are the practical jokes nature might play on us, if our world were more like a children’s book, and our definitions of life a little less strict.


While the smiling stones at the top of the post first caught my eye, my favorites are the stones full of shells. The idea of packing a whole beach into a single stone is satisfyingly meta. And the fact that stones are often full of shells (albeit fossils) makes the visual joke even better.


Itoh also does cunning trompe l’oiel work – folded shirts made of stone, etc. But I find that side of things much less captivating because it reproduces exactly what we expect, rather than surprising us with something plausibly impossible – something that makes the child within us say, “I knew it!”

Another wonderful discovery from the Coilhouse Blog.


  1. #1 rhett
    January 25, 2009

    Those grinning rocks are pretty creepy to me.

  2. #2 Sean Carroll
    January 25, 2009

    Fantastic. The zippers really make them. They give the sly impression that you’re peeking into something you’re not supposed to.

  3. #3 LindaCO
    January 26, 2009

    How fun! Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4 TomJoe
    January 26, 2009

    I’m with rhett. Those grinning rocks are a bit disturbing.

  5. #5 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 26, 2009

    Those things are totally creeping me the fuck out!

  6. #6 Size
    January 27, 2009

    Why creepy? They’re smiling….

  7. #7 emily
    January 28, 2009

    wow, jess. this is just the sort of objectionable weirdness that i dig. nice work!

  8. #8 floatingrunner
    February 1, 2009

    it’ll creep me out if it actually comes to life.

    those things are hard to kill you know..

  9. #10 Marvin
    February 3, 2009

    Those creepy teeth-in-the-zipper rocks somehow reminded me of Dave Cooper.

  10. #11 EmEnz
    February 4, 2009

    Thank goodness not every rock is equipped with zips and faultless teeth.

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