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The Dennos Museum Center

Breaking the Mold: Contemporary Chinese and Japanese Ceramic Sculpture

April 24 - September 27, 2009

Organized in collaboration with Dai Ichi Gallery in New York City, this exhibition features the work of contemporary ceramicists from China and Japan, juxtaposing the themes of Chinese work relationships, Western influences, social issues and human relationships with the Japanese attention to aesthetics of form, texture, color and materials. In each country there is a recognition of tradition while breaking with that tradition in technique and subject matter brought on by experimentation and/or changes in society.

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Japanese Artists

HAYASHI Yasuo (b. 1928)

In 1948 Hayashi Yasuo became the first Japanese abstract ceramic artist. For over six decades he has helped to create an entirely new vocabulary for Japan's large ceramic-making population and given new meaning to ceramic sculpture. He has gone on to inspire generations of ceramic artists in Japan who also have found a way to honor the traditions of the past but explore new ways of sculpting clay to great effect.

HIGASHIDA Shigemasa (b. 1955)

Higashida Shigemasa can be seen, quite simply, as an incomparable landscape artist working in ceramics. Verdant green hills, deep blue waters flowing in dramatic swirling patterns - all are characteristics of his best work. Higashida's irresistible, vibrant art has been enthusiastically collected by museums and connoisseurs worldwide.

HINODA Takashi (b. 1968)

Hinoda is a member of the youngest generation of professional ceramic artists. He is obviously influenced by comic books, cartoons, animated films and a pop art sensibility. Within these influences, his work demonstrates a stylistic versatility and an original twist in his cartoon imagery. Hinoda has consciously avoided what he regards as the gloominess of too many traditional Japanese potters. Without changing his bright colors and funky forms, Hinoda has already given evidence that deeper qualities are to be found in his work. His light touch is not inconsistent with an underlying seriousness of purpose.   Social commentary is done in a palette of very personal colors, an exaggerated perspective and expressive distortions of size.

KANESHIGE Kosuke (b. 1943)

Kaneshige Kosuke; a son of Toyo, the first Living National Treasure from Bizen, has made an independent adjustment to his family pottery heritage, which can be traced back as far as 15th century Bizen. Trained as a sculptor at the Tokyo National University of Arts & Music, Kosuke has developed his own vocabulary of resonant sculptural forms.

KATO Tsubusa (b.1962 )

Starting from age 21, Kato has worked exclusively with white porcelain clay. Porcelain is invariably associated with the Chinese porcelain aesthetic: refined, flawlessly balanced form, delicate, serene, elegant, in short, perfect. The work of Kato Tsubusa, with subtle pale blue celadon glazing, is no less beautiful than traditional porcelain, but in much different ways. Kato's porcelain sculpture manifests motion, not tranquility; "flawed" adventurous forms, not examples of impeccably executed familiar forms; dramatically sweeping, not refined stillness

NAKASHIMA Harumi (b. 1950 )

Nakashima Harumi was born in a farm area. His experience with the natural growing processes of plants, trees and vegetables made a deep impression, and became a major influence on his work as a ceramist. He studied with two important sculptural artists: Hayashi Yasuo and Kumakura Junkichi. Nakashima's career has combined his early fascination with plant growth with the challenging sculptural ideas from his two master teachers, leading Nakashima to make his unique biomorphic sculptures. 

SHIGEMATSU Ayumi (b.1958)

Shigematsu studied with Suzuki Osamu in Kyoto City University of Arts. She then became the first female ceramic professor at her alma mater. She is among the vanguard of women who have become influential in molding a new generation of ceramists, among whom are to be found an increasingly large number of women. Her work takes on an organic appearance. She has said of her own creative process that rather than making aesthetic choices exclusively with her mind, she has characterized it as "thinking with one's hands." She prefers an array of pastel colors, highly unusual for ceramics. This represents a significant rebellion against the norm that clay work should only look like clay. 

WAKAO Toshisada (b. 1933)

Wakao is one of Japan's foremost potters. His innovative elaboration of traditional Momoyama gray Shino has garnered him many awards and sold-out shows. Wakao was born to a family of potters in Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture, a center for Shino ware both in the Momoyama period and in modern times. Wakao's contribution was the use of a latex resist process that enabled him to add naturalistic floral motifs with greater crispness of line than was possible with traditional methods. His motifs are lyrical and poetic.

KOHARA Yasuhiro (b. 1954)

Kohara profoundly believes that everything coming from nature is beautiful and treasurable. Colors, textures, edges and shapes which some might think undesirable, become transformed by his hands into a unique, radical beauty. His green-hued platter is a good example of his challenging aesthetic achievement. Ruggedly beautiful, irregular edges encircle contrasting glazed and unglazed surfaces, made by blocking the central portion during the firing process.

Chinese Artists

LI Lihong (b. 1974)

With uncanny accuracy and unmistakable clarity, Li Lihong focuses on the mixed blessings of the commercial westernization on thousands of years of Chinese culture. Without sacrificing the beauty of his sculpture, he creates perfect visual metaphors in which the arches of McDonald's and the bottles of Absolut vodka co-exist comfortably, or not comfortably, depending on your point of view, with traditional colorful Chinese artistic motifs. The talent of this younger artist has been instantly recognized in China.

LU Bin (b. 1961)

Lu Bin is the past director of the ceramic studio at the Shenzhen Sculpture Academy and Director of the ceramics studio of Nanjing Art Institute. He has been recognized as one of China's modern ceramic masters. He has gained international recognition for his work. He takes objects from daily life in China and makes them into fossils from another time while using them to offer commentary on contemporary issues in China.

WEI Hua (b. 1963)

Wei Hua has been widely exhibited and collected in museums from Norway to China and Korea. This exceptionally versatile artist is equally at home working in the media of bronze, marble, clay and wood, as well as being a superb painter and draftsman. His large-scale work has been commissioned for many public spaces, including parks and important buildings.

XU Hongbo (b. 1971)

The dominant interest of contemporary Chinese work most often explores social issues and human relationship. Hongbo is a pioneer in demonstrating this in the medium of ceramic. In this overwhelming pile of cloned babies, he warns us about the further devaluation of human life. Although the babies are identical in appearance and well-nourished, they have lost all individuality. However, it is work to open to many interpretations, including references to China's massive over population. 

YAO Yongkang (b. 1942)

Yao Yongkang has the reputation of being technically the finest living Chinese ceramic artist. He is most famous for his sculptural work in porcelain celadon. "Millennium Baby" was made in the year 2000. It reveals the Chinese love of male babies. The accompanying dog symbolizes good fortune, and the large lotus leaf in the background constitutes a blessed wish to have male babies.

CHENG, Caroline Yi (b. 1963)

Born in Cambridge, England, educated in the U.S. raised outside of mainland China, moved to Shanghai in 1998, has continued to live there to date, Caroline has a unique understanding and perspective of China.

WAN Liya (b. 1963)

Wan Liya delights in creating experimental art by taking the familiar and looking at it in different ways. Wan's work has been described as imaginative, highly erotic and daring, and sometimes extremely funny. Wan will be visiting the Dennos Museum Center and Northwestern Michigan College for a residency in September of 2009.