Travels in California, part 3: Tradition on Fire at the Asian Art Museum

nagae shigekazu

I have posted before about Japanese ceramicist Shigekazu Nagae (b. 1953), whose sculptures have been acquired by museums in Britain.  I had only seen photographs of his work, though, so I was pleased to find it included in a display of contemporary Japanese ceramics at the Asian Art Museum.

Nagae creates his sculptures by pouring slip (liquid clay) into plastic moulds, which burn out during the initial firing. He pairs two of these forms and, by means of glaze and a further firing, causes them to fuse together, creating attractive and seemingly improbable shapes.

Indeed, many of the 20 artists on show are pushing the medium to its limits, innovating far beyond what might seem possible, and creating a great variety of shapes, colours and surface effects.

Some are aligned more clearly with an existing tradition. Tokuda Yasokichi III (1933-2009) made Kutani ware – porcelain that is glazed using key colours such as blue, green, yellow and purple – but he experimented with new techniques. Kawase Shinobu (b. 1950) is a leading producer of celadons, a tradition with a long history in China and Korea, but innovates with shapes that are his own. All in all, a fabulous display.

Tradition on Fire: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Paul and Kathy Bissinger Collection
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
19 August 2014 to 5 April 2015

Above: Nagae Shigekazu, Chain Formation, 2009. Porcelain with white glaze and spotted patterning. Paul and Kathy Bissinger Collection. Photo: STF.

Below: Tokuda Yasokichi III, Untitled, 1998. Porcelain with suffusion of kutani colour glaze. Paul and Kathy Bissinger Collection. Photo: STF.
tokuda yasokichi III

Below: Kawase Shinobu, Untitled, 2011. Porcellanous stoneware with celadon glaze. Paul and Kathy Bissinger Collection. Photo: STF.
kawase shinobu