Commissioned by Toronto International Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport), Galaxies is Kazuo Nakamura’s first of two public projects and a rare public display of his sculpture. It involves two linear-gridded open metal structures, each with a central core and a series of arms extending from it, hung from the ceiling. The work was initially described as including a floor illumination to generate shadows on the ceiling, but the ceiling in its original location did not lend itself to such an installation. The two galaxies are mirrors of each other, just like the lake reflections found in the landscapes he started to paint a few years before.
Nakamura had been sculpting consistently since the early 1950s, but sculptures such as Untitled, c.1950s, were infrequently exhibited. He produced two types: one made of wire on a Hydrocal base, the other a series of stacked blocks made from Hydrocal. For Nakamura to accept a public commission and on a much larger scale than usual must have been flattering but daunting. What he settled on was a scaled-up version of the wired sculptures, which could be translated to metal tubes that he cut in his studio and later welded together on-site. What he did not anticipate was the controversy that eventually surrounded the commission as a whole, when questions were raised about the wisdom of investing so much taxpayer money to decorate an airport.
The sources for Galaxies are varied and intriguing. To begin with, the sculpture appears as a three-dimensional version of the Inner Structure paintings, as suggested by some of the sketches he produced for the piece. It may also have taken inspiration from bridge scaffolding—Nakamura did make a number of drawings of bridges in the 1950s, such as Bridges Winter, 1953. Similarly, Nakamura drew on the metal lattices of radio telescopes, about which newspaper clippings were found in his papers at the time of his death. Galaxies is, as Nakamura described it, “a spiral stellar system with central nuclei and emerging arms in the vastness of space.” As some observers noted when it was installed, this sculpture also bears “a resemblance to the framework of an ancient plane of Wright brothers’ vintage.” Sadly, Galaxies is not currently on display at Pearson International.