Toshiko Takaezu’s ceramic practice—grounded in Japanese artistic tradition, the aesthetics of tea ware, and Zen Buddhist philosophy—challenges boundaries separating pottery from sculpture, craft from fine art. Indeed, her work played a pivotal role in redefining ceramics in the twentieth century. This exhibition features a selection of the Hawaii-born, Japanese American artist’s signature “closed form” vessels drawn from the MSU Broad collection. Takaezu’s approach called upon the social context of the Mingei movement (arts of the people), which developed in Japan during the late 1920s and honored the beauty in everyday, utilitarian objects made by unknown craftspeople. But by minimizing the mouths of her vessels, often to just a pinhole, Takaezu removed her works’ functionality and forced them to be perceived as objects for art’s sake. These hand-formed, asymmetrical vessels often manifest the process of their creation on their surfaces. Created by hand-throwing on the wheel, or constructed using molds, they are volumetric canvases upon which the artist gesturally brushed, sprayed, poured, or dripped her glazes. Many of the vessels also retain subdued smoke and ash effects from the wood-burning anagama kiln (an ancient type of kiln brought to Japan from China in the fifth century) she often employed. Firing cracks and glazing accidents were equally key in Takaezu’s process, and it is this balance, as well as her ritualized approach, that makes her ceramics distinctively expressive and spiritual.
Toshiko Takaezu: The Closed Form is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Georgia Erger, Curatorial Assistant. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund.