October 7 – January 24, 2020
“He shared with the Ukiyo-e masters a heighten awareness of the world about him, an eye for the unusual in the everyday, the remarkable in the ordinary, the timeless in the momentary.”
Colta Feller Ives – describing the influence Japanese Art had on Edgar Degas
For 200 years Japan was purposefully an isolated nation. In the latter half of the 19th century, Japan opened up to world trade and Japanese Art made its way to Europe.
The Western artists were immediately drawn to the vivid colors and new perspectives of Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. There was a commonality between Western and Japanese artists, both had a desire to represent everyday activities and scenes. But Japanese artists used strong blocks of color, the scenes were viewed from unusual vantage points and space was flatten and compressed, and the number of elements used in a composition were kept to a minimum with a broad use of pattern and delineating lines. By studying Japanese art, Western artists were inspired to create a new way of looking at their world.
In the world of ceramics, the humble tea bowl had a profound effect on the evolution of pottery and potters. In 1488, a Japanese monk redefined the tea ceremony by moving away from refined expensive China, used by the ruling class to show off their status. The monk created a tea ceremony that used worn, weathered and unglazed stoneware made by local Japanese artisans as a reminder of human imperfection.
This philosophy of simple everyday functional pottery continued on.
In the 1920s and 1930s an arts movement began called Mingei. Mingei was developed ordinary people who celebrated the beauty in everyday, utilitarian objects. One of the members of this movement was Shoji Hamada (1894 – 1978).
Hamada worked with British potter Bernard Leach (1887-1979) and together they became the conduit between British and Japanese potters. Many potters were influenced by these two men including American potters, Warren MacKenzie and Jeff Oestreich. A long line of potters continues the legacy of making beautiful functional pottery having been inspirited by the aesthetics and techniques of Japanese artists.
The work on display is a combination of Japanese and Western prints and ceramics. There are common threads between some of the works because artists have learned from one another while developing deep respect and admiration for their fellow artists.