ORANGE CRATE LABEL SERIES
From the 1880's to the 1950's, California oranges were sent to market packed in wooden crates with big, milti-colored labels pasted on the ends. Among Ben Sakoguchi's early influences were the bold graphics and fanciful images on the orange crates that were stacked behind his parents' grocery store.
In the 1970's—after cardboard cartons had replaced wooden crates—beautifully printed labels that had long been stored in packing houses were being sold as collectors' items at the flea markets Sakoguchi frequented. He was attracted by the familiar orange crate label format, and started using it in a series of small paintings.
Just as the actual labels had depicted a wide variety of subjects—Sakoguchi's paintings sampled events, issues and attitudes of modern culture. He produced several hundred orange crate label paintings (1974 - 1981) before moving on to other projects.
In 1994, Sakoguchi revisited the orange crate label format, and has continued the series. The 218 paintings reproduced here date from 1994 to 2003. They are acrylic on canvas, 10 inches x 11 inches. (source: Ben Skoguchi)
Poston, Arizona USA 1945
Ben Sakoguchi was born in 1938, in San Bernardino California. During World War II, his family was incarcerated by the United States government because of their Japanese ancestry, so he spent his early childhood in an internment camp at Poston, Arizona. After the war, the Sakoguchis returned to San Bernardino, and with considerable difficulty, reopened their small grocery business. Ben attended public schools, including San Bernardino Valley College.
ORANGE CRATE LABEL SERIES: A BRIEF HISTORY OF SLAVERY
Ben Sakoguchi's 1974 - 1981 Orange Crate Label Series touched on the issue of race in America, and his continuation of the series (1994 - 2003) included a number of paintings that addressed the topic.
In Sakoguchi's Orange Crate Label Series: The Unauthorized History of Baseball, he followed the subject of race back to the beginnings of Major League ball. While working on those canvases in 2004, Sakoguchi also began directing his focus toward the "peculiar institution" of slavery.
The 59 paintings reproduced here were completed in 2008. They are acrylic on canvas, 10 inches x 11 inches.