Sunday, March 23, 2008

Toshiko Takaezu

I wandered into the Tadeo Ando gallery
at the Art Institute yesterday
(that's the dark room that resembles
a Japanese temple)

and came across a large exhibit of
Toshiko Takaezu (b. 1929)

(here's a shot to show the relative size of the pieces)

These large ceramic lumps
are so relaxing !

I didn't know I wanted to be peaceful
until I saw them

everything seems like it grew
to be that way,

but it's still more enjoyable
than a natural object
because I feel a soft
human presence

what a beautiful woman this is!

but once the shape gets a little
more complicated,
I'm losing my sense of satisfaction

Peter Voulkos (1924-2002), 1954
Toshiko Takaezu, 1970
Maija Grotell (1899-1973), 1940

Here's three pieces presented for comparison.

Voulkos was a contemporary who eventually left the
Japanese/peaceful to become American/disturbed

Grotell was an instructor at Cranbrook when Toshiko went there.

These things are all so peaceful and enjoyable for me,
like a walk through the fields
on sunny day in late autumn

Bernard Leach (1887-1979)
Hamada Shoji (1894-1978)

The exhibit also included
these examples
from renowned potters of an earlier generation,
and all of these things
I find so enjoyable.

But I'm not going to sign on
with the kinds of art-talk that accompanies
this contemporary tradition:

"Takaezu has been instrumental in moving ceramics beyond its historical ties to the concept of function and into the realm of sculpture," James Jensen wrote in 1995. She transformed clay "from something associated only with utilitarian objects to something that could be meaningful, capable of embodying abstract ideas."


when have collectible ceramics,
over the past 1000 years (and longer) ,
ever not been within the realm of sculpture ?

When have they not been capable
of embodying abstract ideas ?

And .. what are those ideas anyway ?
Doesn't each viewer have their own?

I think the terrible fact is.....

that this art is as traditional
as the neo academic painters
who want to draw like Renaissance masters.

It's just that...
being non-figurative,
Asian ceramics is a tradition that's acceptable
to the art museums of today.

and one more issue....

was it really such a good idea
for the A.I.C. to put acquire all these pieces ?
(they were gifted by the artist herself)

Doesn't that mean that they will spend most of their time
in the dark basement?

If they were given - or sold - to someone else
wouldn't they get to be seen more frequently ?

And don't they take up a lot of space ?

Why not just dedicate a museum display area to contemporary
traditional ceramics
and cycle temporary exhibits through it every month ?

Toshiko Takaezu is very good,
but aren't there several hundred (or even thousand)
contemporaries who are just as good ?


Anonymous marly said...

Interesting Chrisian comments, as always--I'm with you on what's "acceptable" to museums and the welcome for the "non-figurative."

It's good to see some artists appalling the gatekeepers with a return to beauty--and to technique.

March 24, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

We all have our likes and dislikes. As a rule this is not my scene at all. Functional ceramics of very fine porcelain or bone china individually painted yes, very much yes, but I find this sort of thing rather dull. I can see no connection with a peaceful autumn walk in the countryside other than a resemblance to a root crop, turnip perhaps, ready for harvest. To some I must be plain simple to others perhaps I am a little bit more truthful. I will concede that there is a lot of skill involved with the creation of ceramics but I feel the results are usually random and meaningless. To create a physical object to promote an abstract idea is too clever for me. Abstract; meaning outside of the physical; an idea; or the theoretical way of regarding things, apart from material objects, is not in the realms of my art. I do accept that Abstract objects can be beautiful, can promote emotion, but these ones do not for me.

March 25, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Not to sound too much like an old hippie --but perhaps it's my astrological earth signs that make me so fond of root crops -- or actually -- more like ground crops -- like pumpkins and other gourds -- that swell out with a fulsome kind of life -- and end up with mud-encrusted patterns on their surface.

So maybe I should spend more time at the vegetable market ! -- except that -- these pots also feel human to me -- and not just any kind of human - but humans at their best: gentle, sweet, content, a little humorous.

But --- I also like to be thrilled -- and that's why we have figure sculpture - isn't it ?

March 25, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Talking of hippie, I have been thinking of buying a combie, one I could paint with flowers and go hippie camping in. My father would be turing in his grave to read this!

Hate turnips and swedes; will eat pasnips but will now look out for the human "feel" Chris; gentle, sweet, content, a little humorous in the super market!

March 25, 2008  
Blogger GEM said...

Chris it would be helpful in attaching scale measurement to these Takaezu pieces. i am assuming they are rather large 9 above 2ft in height). If so, they represent a skill in sequential throwing and building on previously leather hard lower layers - quite a feat and a juggling act in the studio. I can see the ultiltarian purpose of large thrown forms - if they have generous necks and shoulders, however the pinched nipple-top of some of these you have shown takes them out of utilitarian and unconvincingly into a sculptural realm. As objects of bravura technique, they are fine, otherwise they are merely large dust-catchers, in my opinion. G

April 03, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

The first four are big - #1 and #4 being the biggest - reaching at least 36" -- and none of Toshiko pots look like they're good for anything besides looking at - but a lot of people are that way, too, and I certainly don't hold it against them!
(I'll get the actual dimensions on my next visit)

April 04, 2008  

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