Published: September 19, 2006
Presented by Japan Society Gallery, “Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century” will survey creative and iconoclastic works by the finest potters working in Japan today. Conceived and curated by Joe Earle, Matsutaro Shoriki chair of the Department of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this exhibition features more than 100 works and will be on display at Japan Society from September 29 to January 21.
In addition to the 60 pieces shown in the opening exhibition in Boston earlier this year, Japan Society’s presentation of “Contemporary Clay” also features some 40 pieces from New York and Boston private collections and museums.
The exhibition is a survey of the kaleidoscope of colors, forms, glazes, textures and sizes that populate the world of contemporary Japanese ceramics. Included are numerous objects created by artists working in Japan’s medieval ceramic centers as well as works of those influenced by the avant-garde Sodeisha group.
“The potters represented in ‘Contemporary Clay’ are important contemporary artists who are deeply rooted in various Japanese ceramic traditions. Their work is often strikingly modern, even revolutionary, yet at the same time very Japanese in its underlying aesthetic,” said Japan Society interim president Richard J. Wood,
Founded in the late 1940s by three young Kyoto artists, the Sodeisha group challenged the city’s centuries-old crafts tradition and fostered a new style, much influenced by international modernist trends, that was nonutilitarian and often purely sculptural.
Many of the works added to the Japan Society exhibition were created by the original founders of Sodeisha, and the final section includes a wide range of pieces by their students and followers. One of the most significant additions, not shown in Boston, will be “A Cloud Remembered,” a masterwork by Yagi Kazuo, who is widely regarded as the leading figure in postwar Japanese ceramics. On loan from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the work exemplifies Kazuo’s edgy, sometimes disturbing combination of a biomorphic abstract vocabulary with a traditional ceramic medium.
The exhibition continues with an exploration of works created in ancient, regional, stoneware kilns. Works by Isezaki Jun and Nishihata Tadashi are among the highlights of this section.
Following this is a small area devoted to the work of three ceramic artists who emulate natural forms and processes. Creating a bridge between this section and the last is Kohyama Yasuhisa’s work, which is fired and refired to create an aesthetic reminiscent of Japan’s oldest stoneware. Koike Shoko’s work is inspired by marine forms and evokes thoughts of shells, ocean waves and seaside cliffs. Sakiyama Takayuki, one of the few artists in the exhibition who does not work in one of Japan’s old ceramic centers or its great cities, creates containers that bring to mind the gently rippling ocean or a sandy beach.
“Contemporary Clay” then delves into the world of porcelain production, one of the youngest forms of pottery in the exhibition. Transforming the traditional material with innovative technologies, Yagi Akira (son of Sodeisha founder Yagi Kazuo), Kawase Shinobu, and Miyanaga Tozan are among the masters of glazed porcelain presented in the exhibition. Even less traditional porcelain forms are presented as well.
Defying classification are the four artists presented in the next section. Wada Morihiro creates crisp, almost graphic designs in his large stoneware works and is a master of Shigaraki ware. Bold experimentalist Koie Ryoji revels in the risks of the ceramic process, scoring the surfaces of his works with seemingly random lines and sometimes firing them on their sides. Matsuda Yuriko’s humorous painted body parts subvert traditional decorative strategy as well as the idea of form. Mishima Kimiyo’s trompe l’oeil sculptures create the illusion that they are not ceramics at all.
A fully illustrated catalog published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2005 will accompany the exhibition. Japan Society is at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues. For information, www.japansociety.org or 212-832-1155.
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