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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘Beware of nostalgic ceramics,’ admonished professor Kimpei Nakamura (agitator, artist). None of his works are on view here, but his advice relates: none of the following works are nostalgic. All bravely inhabit new ground, the postwar Japanese landscape of ceramic sculpture. Only Tokuda Yasokichi’s porcelain vase (Lot 150) favors flowers, but he subordinates form to glaze, and paints, as painters do, on a blank canvas. Yasokichi is third in a family of esteemed potters. Rather than hew to his father’s tradition, he boldly experiments with Kutani glazes and firing methods. Ryûichi Kakurezaki’s vase is a vase (Lot 153), but it blooms alone. Expression supports function, not the other way round.
     
     
    "Before the war it was common for sons to follow in their father's footsteps . . . ,” said Nakamura during a 2006 interview in The Japan Times. “But the culture of postwar Japan fostered an environment in which young people were questioning everything that had gone before.” By turning away from canonical forms—tea-ware, rice bowls, cups—the present ceramists succeed to ground first dug by Sodeisha, a coterie of postwar Kyoto potters who fired new forms in old kilns: they questioned the functionality of pots while still throwing pots. A rival group, the Shiko-kai, more forcefully subordinated craft to art, as Aoyama Wahei has noted. Their manifesto declared: “Since we have been brought up by the earth…we will efface ourselves by means of the earth.” Much is lost in translation, but the sense of effacement is clear: the Shiko-kai potter recedes, the rawness of clay prevails.
     
     
    Rather than withdraw into earth, Kyoto artist Yô Akiyama draws earth out: his geologic sculptures, like distorted core samples drilled from the mantle, suggest depositions from some distant epoch. As Robert Yellin states, all Akiyama’s works are non-functional and glazed black like Lot 107. He generates cracks with a gas burner to achieve his distinctive fractured surfaces. On the occasion of a 2004 exhibition in Athens, Akiyama wrote: “…cracks are the ulterior expression of clay’s inner nature.” Perhaps he meant exterior, but ulterior will do: every artist, perpetually in search of truth, attempts to express what is ultimately beyond his understanding. In that sense, art and religion aren’t so very far apart. With its animist overtones, the postwar Japanese worship of clay is indeed a religion of clay.

104

“Tenkû Haruka,” a sculptural form

2001
Porcelain, celadon glaze, mounted on a wooden base. 
26 1/2 in. (67.3 cm.) wide
Incised with signature. Together with the original signed wooden box.

Estimate
$8,000 - 12,000 

Design

17 Dec 2008 2pm
New York