Japanese Ceramics and Metalwork in Contemporary Design: Asia Week New York 2018

15 March - 28 April 2018

In celebration of Asia Week New York 2018 and its 12-year anniversary as a leader of Japanese arts in the international art market of New York City, Onishi Gallery is proud to present a unique new exhibition to Western audiences: Japanese Ceramics and Metalwork in Contemporary Design. The traditional arts of Japan may be described in many ways, but distinguished beauty, meticulous creative techniques, refined aesthetics, and legacies of heritage are some of the defining characteristics that unite them all. From one generation of artists to the next, Japanese creative tradition is passed down and reinterpreted in new designs and forms. For thousands of years, shared customs have reinforced creative structures within which artists seek to express their particular visions and thus, the tradition is renewed. In this process, histories, aesthetics, theories, and passions about beauty are reconceived; and, as this landmark exhibition illustrates, these innovative re-conceptions redefine the maker, the muse, and the meaning of the artwork in new social and cultural contexts.

Bringing numerous leading ceramic and metalwork artists from the Japanese contemporary art scene, Onishi Gallery works with both renowned and emerging Japanese artists to introduce their work to American audiences, connect them with museum collections, and enable American arts and cultural institutions to discover and partner with these international talents. In 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the work of Onishi Gallery artist Ito Sekisui V, and the Institute of Art in Detroit acquired the works of Konno Tomoko and Ohi Toshio Chozaemon XI. In 2018, Onishi Gallery continues to connect Japanese artists with American audiences by serving as a bridge between U.S. cultural institutions and the Japanese government.

This impressive exhibition showcases the work of dozens of Japanese ceramic and metalwork artists who are stepping onto the international art stage by collaborating with Onishi Gallery during Asia Week 2018. Fourteen Japanese ceramic artists are featured, seven of whom have been designated as “Living National Treasures” by the government of Japan for their invaluable traditional knowledge and creative skill. As art critic and historian (Tama Art University) Kazuko Todate states in her essay, “The Essence of Japanese Ceramics,” each region of Japan has its own distinct style of pottery rooted in its distinct place. Despite the incredible diversity of pottery across the nation, however, Japanese ceramics all share a balance of history and modernity, maintaining a constant equilibrium of experience and creativity that enriches the culture of Japanese pottery. Moreover, writes Todate, Japanese ceramic artists communicate with their clay and its material properties to produce unique creations. This approach, he writes, “of balancing tradition and creativity, and regarding materials and tools as partners in a collaborative effort, is rooted in fundamental Japanese values.” The artists in this exhibition illustrate these Japanese values through their balance of delicacy and strength in form, tradition and innovation in technique, and commemoration and vision in style. They include: IMAIZUMI Imaemon XIV (Living National Treasure), ITO Sekisui V (Living National Treasure), TOKUDA Yasokichi III (Living National Treasure), YOSHITA Minori (Living National Treasure), MAETA Akihiro (Living National Treasure), NAKASHIMA Hiroshi (Living National Treasure), TOKUDA Yasokichi IV, SAKAIDA Kakiemon XV, YOSHITA Yukio, OHI Toshio Chozaemon XI, KONNO Tomoko, SHOMURA Ken, SHOMURA Hisaki, and Peter Hamann.

Ten metalwork artists are also featured in this ambitious exhibition, two of whom have been designated “Living National Treasures”: NAKAGAWA Mamoru (Living National Treasure); OSUMI Yukie (Living National Treasure); OTSUKI Masako; OSHIYAMA Motoko; HAGINO Noriko; HATA Shunsai III; SAKO Ryuhei; HANNYA Tamotsu; HANNYA Taiju; and MIYATA Ryohei. Miyata Ryohei, Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University of the Arts, writes in his essay, “The Global Launch of Japanese Metalwork,” that around 1920, metal artwork was created in Japan for “festive occasions such as promotions, marriages, and birthdays,” esteemed artists often commissioned to make pieces for the Imperial household. These pieces were displayed in the Imperial palace, preserved, and passed down, but they, therefore, were not viewed by the general public, domestically or abroad. Unique casting techniques, engraving methods, and surface treatments for the metal, such as using food items (plum vinegar, grated radish, and rice bran), have been in practice in Japan since ancient times, but public engagement with this traditional artwork has been limited. This exhibition changes that circumstance by shedding light on this tradition deeply imbued with Japan’s creative heritage and historical character.