Contemporary Japanese Masterworks

Featuring Tokuda Yasokichi III, Tokuda Yasokichi IV, Ohi Toshio and Tsuruta Yoshitaka
A bio­graph­i­cal sum­mary of each par­tic­i­pat­ing artist follows:

Tokuda Yasokichi IV

Born in 1961, Tokuda Yaso­kichi IV suc­ceeded her father Tokuda Yaso­kichi III’s posi­tion after his death in 2009. As a female artist suc­ceed­ing the posi­tion in a tra­di­tional potter’s fam­ily, she is a remark­able fig­ure in Japan and rec­og­nized in the inter­na­tional mar­ket. Even while she has inher­ited the prac­tices of Kutani porce­lain tech­niques and meth­ods, her sen­si­bil­ity as a female artist gives her a sin­gu­lar per­spec­tive on tra­di­tion that is reflected in her diverse color palette and her unique inter­pre­ta­tions of form.

Tokuda Yasokichi III

Tokuda Yaso­kichi III (1933–2009) was one of the world’s most famous Kutani pot­ters. Born in Ishikawa Pre­fec­ture, he was des­ig­nated as a Nin­gen Kokuho (Liv­ing National Trea­sure) in 1997 for the mas­tery of his saiyu glaze tech­nique. Yaso­kichi III inno­v­a­tively devel­oped the saiyu tech­nique based on tra­di­tional Kutani col­ored glaze enam­el­ing tech­niques handed down from his grand­fa­ther, Tokuda Yaso­kichi I, and using tech­niques learned from his father, Tokuda Yaso­kichi II. With saiyu, Yaso­kichi III cre­ated his own visual world char­ac­ter­ized by the del­i­cate shad­ing and beau­ti­ful con­trast of enamel glaze colors.

Yaso­kichi III’s work has been rec­og­nized widely and shown in numer­ous muse­ums includ­ing the British Museum, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Museum of Art, the Sack­ler Gallery, and the Smith­son­ian Insti­tute. His hon­ors include accep­tance into the Issui-kai Pot­tery and Porce­lain Exhi­bi­tion (1958), the Japan Tra­di­tional Arts and Craft Soci­ety Chairman’s Award (1977), the Grand Prize of the Inter­na­tional Pot­tery and Porce­lain Exhi­bi­tion (1990), and the Pur­ple Rib­bon Medal given by the Gov­ern­ment of Japan (1993).

Tsuruta Yoshitaka

A white, belt-shaped slip covers the entire sur­face of the hand­some shaped work. Due to the thick­ness of the engobe, the minute white grains assume a snow or sand like texture. The upper lines of the belt create gentle undulations resembling the ridge line of a mountain or the slope of a hill that encircle the vessel. While casting a quiet shadow across the surface of the piece, the light and shade of the slip, fol­low­ing the rhythm of the belt, con­veys a sense of depth akin to a nat­ural landscape.

Nagasaka, Yamanashi Prefecture, where the ceramic artist Tsu­ruta Yoshitaka has his studio, is about two hours from Tokyo by train. The area is blessed with clear air and an abundance of nature. The window of Tsuruta’s studio offers a glimpse of the majestic shape of the Yatsugatake mountains. According to the season, and even over the course of a single day, the landscape continues to change with each pass­ing moment.

Avoiding an explanatory approach to the natural forms that have accumulated daily in his memory, Tsu­ruta expresses them in exceedingly symbolic and stoic terms. And rather than depicting his subject directly with a brush, Tsuruta’s decorative style, an indirect technique based mainly on masking, allows him to organize and abstract the content of his expression. Moreover, without adding an excess of color, he creates a world­view founded solely on the relationship between the black clay and the white slip.

Ohi Toshio

Ohi Toshio inherits an artistic tradition that dates from 1666. That was when the first Ohi ware potter began crafting ceramic works for the tea ceremony near Kanazawa. Toshio is the 11th generation in the Ohi lineage. He deploys the characteristically lustrous effects of Ohi ware in bowls and other items for the tea ceremony and in a vast range of other works, both utilitarian and purely artis­tic. Born in Kanazawa, he received a MFA from Boston University and has taught in the United States, Taiwan, and Japan