Osamu Suzuki - Design New York Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Exhibited

    "Sodeisha Tokyo," Tokyo Shinjyuku Isetan department store, May 1978

  • Literature

    Osamu Suzuki, Suzuki Osamu Togei Sakuhin Shu, Tokyo, 1982, illustrated p. 94, item 125

  • Catalogue Essay

    Every son denies his father—adventure calls. He atones for the sin by bearing children of his own. Osamu Suzuki, third son of a potter, rejected the functional wares of his forbears. He settled new ground, the postwar landscape of Japanese ceramic sculpture. “A form made of clay that cannot be made on the wheel was something I had always had in mind” he stated. But Suzuki was a progenitor himself; in 1948 he co-founded the Sodeisha group with a coterie of Kyoto friends, all sons of potters. Radical innovators, they turned away from canonical forms—tea-ware, bowls, cups—toward composite works, shifting planes, abstraction. By subverting vessels, Sodeisha fathered a generation of ceramists who likewise challenged the torpor of tableware.
    “No technique is inert or ahistorical,” wrote Edmund de Waal in 20th Century Ceramics—nor is innovation. By the 1960s, Suzuki turned for inspiration not to outmoded antique wares but to ancient ones. Named after prehistoric Jōmon clay figurines, his elemental forms projected totemic force. Their curt geometries and refined surfaces seemed hewn from stone—stoneware to be exact. He derived other shapes from nature and from 5th-century haniwa funerary objects, which often took animal forms.
    In 1967 Suzuki began a long series of abstract horse sculptures whose rectangular bodies, like closed containers on squat legs, further challenged the primacy (and fluidity) of wheel-thrown vessels. He stated, “So I thought of square or flat forms. In the beginning, I think I purposely chose shapes that were not an accumulation of circles.” To borrow from de Waal, the implied “centrifugal force of the pot on the wheel” was lost. The present horses stand stock-still. They’re hot-blooded nonetheless: legs shift, forms cant, necks flex in space. They don’t run in circles, but they may take flight.
    Suzuki’s ceramics are “void of function,” as Kenji Kaneko has noted, but not void of voids, the prerequisite of all vessels. Their enclosed interior spaces imply air or conversely mass, depending on one’s point of view. Regardless they hold weight or lack thereof. Suzuki denies the vessel but in doing so he alludes to it. His clay body, after all, was his father’s body. A filial devotion persists.
    Unless otherwise noted, all citations: Kenji Kaneko, Suzuki Osamu, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1999.


Unique pair of horse figures

Porcelain, celadon glaze, "persimmon" glaze, wood.
One: 13 x 8 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (33 x 21.6 x 19.1 cm.); the other: 13 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (34.3 x 14 x 14 cm.)
Each impressed with artist’s seal, the base board signed. Together with the original fitted wooden box and wrapping cloths.

$50,000 - 70,000 


14 Nov 2009
New York