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Robert Kuo’s story bridges the gap between ancient Chinese and 20th century traditions. Born in Beijing, he moved with his family to Taiwan in 1947. Raised in an artistic environment, his father was an art professor and Chinese watercolor painter who started a cloisonné atelier where Robert Kuo became an apprentice at age fifteen. Although he never engaged in formal art studies, Kuo gained technical expertise and learned about decorative tradition from hands on training. He soon mastered the basics that would serve him throughout his artistic career.
While pursuing his studies in Taipei, Kuo assisted his father in the creation of a cloisonné studio. After visiting the United States in 1973, Kuo immigrated to California and opened his own cloisonné studio in Beverly Hills. Using the influences of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Kuo introduced new shapes, finishes, and objects to cloisonné, and succeeded in cultivating a clientele that appreciated the way he made Chinese tradition accessible.
By 1985, Kuo shifted his focus from working in cloisonné to repousse, the art of hammering decorative relief onto metal. Instead of applying enamel to a copper base, the artist began to experiment with applying different finishes to the hammered base. Kuo looked to China for artisans experienced in ancient techniques and trained craftsmen to adapt their skills to repousse forms and objects. Today, he spends four to six months of the year in China to create new pieces, which are then finished in Los Angeles.
Called “the imperial craftsman of the 21st century,” Kuo reinterprets the past for the present and future and has an avid and enthusiastic base of collectors that await his new designs.
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