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October 20 -November 11, 2016
By Appointment Only

The unique Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi is key to understanding Yakishime ceramics. Literally meaning "fire" (yaki) "tight" (shime), any unglazed ceramics that have been fired in a wood or any other kind kiln can be labeled Yakishime. These unglazed works feature dry, unadorned surfaces that perfectly embody wabi-sabi's reverence for natural imperfection and blend beautifully with the tea aesthetic.

Japanese ceramic connoisseurs have been known to go to extremes to find the perfect clay texture and ash deposits. They call it 土の味 (the flavor of clay) or 景色 (the marks from wood fire). The perfect texture must start with the perfect clay. A specific clay deposit can pass from one generation to the next, a carefully guarded resource. Some potters pick their clay by chewing it to determine quality, others pick with their hands, their noses - it is a fully sensory knowledge of material. Certain clays and certain textures produce different ash colors depending on the kind of wood, and each potter must calibrate his materials and his kiln carefully to achieve the desired result, a perfect wabi-sabi balance.

Yakishime can also be viewed from an international point of view in that it takes inspiration from primitive art. After WWII, Japanese artists were introduced to Western styles of modern art at the same time that they were encouraged to consider their own national identity. Ceramics artists were struggling with the apparent divide between tradition and modernity. These two ideas meet in Yakishime works, which look to the traditional textures and colors of unglazed stoneware while at the same time incorporating a very modern interest in primitive art. In fact, many Western artists including Matisse, Picasso, and Modigliani were also inspired by primitive art. Japan's ceramic artists therefore participated in an international investigation of primitive aesthetics with a modern sensibility.

Japanese artists found the sources for this inspiration in Jomon and Yayoi earthenware. Pioneers such as Isamu Noguchi, HAYASHI Yasuo林康夫, YAGI Kazuo八木一夫, SUZUKI Osmau鈴木治, and YAMADA Hikaru 山田光all made their own personal homages to these ancient styles. Many of these artists were born into traditional potter's families, and may have learned from an early age that glaze was part of the creative process, necessary to seal and to decorate. The power they found in unglazed clay felt rebellious and modern, and inspired them to depart from traditional aesthetics and claim a new, modern identity.

For our Yakishime exhibition, we have carefully selected several distinctive clay surfaces and have studied the historical progress of the Yakishime style in order to examine just how artists have orchestrated the great symphony of clay and ash and form.

The artists in this exhibition will include SUZUKI Osmau, KATO Shigetaka, TSUJIMURA Shiro, KANESHIGE Kosuke, ISEZAKI Jun, MIHARA Ken, and KOHARA Yasuhiro, among others. The works on view are created from Iga clay, some from Bizen, and much more. These artists let the clay sing, they let ash paint their surfaces. Their unique forms, mostly functional, reference both Japanese primitive tradition and a modern spirit, and each has a distinctive personality.