Artwork: Yuji Ueda. Untitled, c. 2015 Ceramic 23 3/4 x 24 1/2 x 24 inches © the artist.
Internationally renown for as one of contemporary art’s brightest stars, Takashi Murakami takes on a new role as curator, assembling an exhibition featuring a new generation of Japanese ceramicists: Kazunori Hamana, Yuki Ueda, and Otani Workshop, now on view at Blum & Poe, New York, now through April 9, 2016.
Japanese ceramics is an ancient art, one that dates back to the Neolithic period. The age old tradition continues, and in doing so it evolves, integrating the spirit of the past with the present day, reminding us of the importance of preserving legacy while simultaneously making it speak to the present day. As Murakami observes, “We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don’t completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art.”
In bringing together the works of Hamana, Ueda, and Otani, Murakami has created an otherworldly environment, crafting an experience of the work that is as delightfully authentic and organic as the objects themselves. There is a clear emphasis on the integrity of the process and the natural form, producing an intoxicating atmosphere the work and creating a sense of something vital and fresh. Many of the works in the exhibition have never been seen before in the United States, giving viewers a brand new opportunity to engage.
White Bear, c. 2015 Ceramic 35 1/4 x 35 1/2 x 32 3/4 inches © the artist
Working on the Pacific coast, in Chiba, Japan, Kazunori Hamana makes work that is both stark and dense, creating a rich, fertile intensity in each piece. Many times the surfaces are striped or imbued with designs or language. Urns, bowls, vessels, cups, and plates — each irregularly shaped by not only the vast history of the ceramic arts but also by the characteristics — are found in the coastal environment where he works.
Yuji Ueda hails from a family of award-winning tea farmers in the Shiga Prefecture town of Shigaraki, one of the great centers of Japanese ceramics for the last 800 years. Ueda takes an experimental approach to his work by glazing and firing leads to a variety of distinct forms and vessels. The result is profoundly intimate objects that evoke the tensions inherent in life itself, revealing a strange, sad, and tender beauty within the work.
Also based in Shigaraki, Otani Workshop uses a variety of materials to create its works, including clay, wood, and iron, among others. Otani Workshop’s small jars, vases, and other sculptural forms are characteristic of the many styles and motifs found throughout Japanese culture.
Untitled, c. 2015 Ceramic 29 3/4 x 34 x 34 1/4 inches © the artist
By bringing together Kazunori Hamana, Yuki Ueda, and Otani Workshop, Murakami celebrates the traditions of his native Japan, giving us a profoundly contemporary look at one of its greatest traditions.
All photos: Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.