Exhibition I:
Erarta Galleries, 1043 Madison Avenue, 1st Floor, New York City
March 13–21, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, March 13, 6–9pm
Open House Weekend: March 14 & 15, 10am–6pm

Exhibition II:
Onishi Gallery, 521 W 26th Street, Lower Level, New York City
March 12–27, 2015
(Concurrently, the solo show “Tenmoku: Japanese Tea Bowls by Kimura Moriyasu” will also be on view.)

This Asia Week 2015, Onishi Gallery is proud to present “Heritage – Contemporary Japanese Ceramics and Metalwork,” a unique two-part exhibition featuring a brilliant array of contemporary Japanese ceramic and metal artwork.  While contemporary Japanese ceramics have been a focus of Asia Week’s exhibitions of years past, this show marks the first in which Japanese metalwork will also be featured, showcasing a total of 24 artists (17 ceramic and seven metal). Of special note, nearly one third of this exhibition’s artwork is produced by nine Japanese Living National Treasure Artists whose creative practices illustrate the show’s theme of “heritage” through time-honored techniques of mind, eye, and hand.

“Living National Treasures” (an honorary title bestowed upon these nine artists by the Japanese government) are holders of “Important Intangible Cultural Property,” carrying cultural traditions and social histories of the past into the present through their creative practice. In this rare opportunity during Asia Week, these nine artists convey their Japanese traditions and histories to audiences outside Japan. As gallery owner Nana Onishi writes, viewers of their artwork will “travel in time and become witness to an evolution in art, an inheritance in skills and talents, an undeniable familial bond and influence, and the artists’ individual triumphs which are at once unique and steeped in history.” As these artists materialize “heritage” through their work, Japanese traditional arts and culture are transmitted to the next generation, and relationship between people, values, and creative expression are revitalized.

The ceramic and metal pieces in this exhibition by all 24 artists will stun viewers in their ability to transcend expectations of these objects’ material limits. The forms are shaped with such grace and the designs executed with such precision that in place of any trace of the artist’s hand, sharp silhouettes, striking colors, and entrancing auras communicate the artist’s vision, value, and intention. More beautiful than visual pleasures alone, however, these forms challenge us to consider how functional forms transcend any singular function. Todate Kazuko, Art Critic and member of the International Academy of Ceramics, comments that ceramic art and craft offer more than only visual value: “ceramics and crafts in our living spaces are worthy of appreciation from a purely aesthetic standpoint, like painting or sculpture. However, they do not satisfy only the visual sense but also the tactile, inviting the beholder to touch them and relish their texture and materiality. Ceramics and crafts can be companions, intimate and irreplaceable elements of our daily lives. In this sense these art forms – ceramics and crafts – are the ones tied most closely and inseparably to the human heart.” Her observation makes us realize how these objects stimulate multiple senses, drawing in viewers through still presence and interactive performance. The ceramic artists in this show include YOSHITA Minori (Living National Treasure), ISEZAKI Jun (Living National Treasure), ITO Sekisui V (Living National Treasure), IMAIZUMI Imaemon XIV (Living National Treasure), SAKAIDA Kakiemon XIV (Living National Treasure), TOKUDA Yasokichi III (Living National Treasure), TOKUDA Yasokichi IV, YOSHITA Yukio, OHI Toshio, SHOMURA Ken, SHOMURA Hisaki, KOYAMA Koichi, YAMAJI Kazuo, SUZUKI Miki, MOCHIZUKI Shu, UWATAKI Koichi, and KIMURA Moriyasu. See here for artists’ biographies and work samples: http://onishigallery.com/artists.

Making this exhibition groundbreaking, the metalwork artists in this show are not only some of the most highly acclaimed traditional artists in Japan, but two are female—an especially rare occurrence in the metal craft field in Japan. Commonly, female metal smiths make jewelry, but the two female artists features in this show, Osumi Yukie and Oshiyama Motoko, create compelling metal art objects that attract viewers with luxurious sheens, tantalizing textures, and elegant lines. Osumi Yukie uniquely uses her nunomezogan (textile imprint inlay) technique on a large scale to create intricately shaped vases. Unquestionably, Osumi is one of the few and best practitioners of contemporary metal art among all metal smiths in the 20-21st centuries, demonstrated by her work included in the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Onishi Gallery is extremely proud to represent such exceptional works by these powerful female artists during Asia Week New York 2015. The entire group of astounding metal artists includes NAKAGAWA Mamoru (Living National Treasure), OZAWA Komin (Living National Treasure), TAMAGAWA Norio (Living National Treasure), OSUMI Yukie, HATA Shunsai, HANNYA Tamotsu, and OSHIYAMA Motoko. See here for artists’ biographies and work samples: http://onishigallery.com/artists.

This exhibition is a remarkable show of the range of contemporary Japanese artists who integrate innovative interpretation with cultural tradition through the ceramic and metal arts. Bringing the past into the present through some of the most exhilarating creative practices, these artists are forging new paths in the art world for Japanese craft traditions, Japanese female artists, and Japanese heritage made material. This is an exhibition not to be missed.


Read “From ‘Craft’ to ‘kōgei’ – Inquiry into the Essence of Forms”  
By Masahiro Karasawa, Chief Curator of Crafts Gallery, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo