Robert Yellin's Japanese Pottery Blog

Greetings from Kyoto, We've just moved our gallery into a magnificent old Sukiya style home located very near the Silver Pavilion; a stunning area and setting for the inspired ceramic art we share with the world. Please visit us if ever in Kyoto or online at and

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kaneta and Kohyama in Tokyo

Two excellent exhibitions are happening--actually one now and the other next week--in Tokyo and if you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood then you might like to have a look. First is Hagi great Kaneta Masanao at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi's sixth floor gallery from Feb.7-13. This exhibition is to comemmorate his succession to the eighth generation master of his family's kiln. I wonder if he's going to change his name....stay tuned
I have the catalog and it features his stunning kuri-nuki creations that have re-shaped the conservative Hagi world. He is surely worthy--and should be--given the JCS Prize, made a Yamaguchi ICP, and a future LNT!
The other worthy exhibition begins next week on the 15th (last day 21st) down the road from Mitsukoshi at rival Takashimaya's sixth floor gallery. There Shigaraki living legend Kohyama Yasuhisa will show new works---fired his kiln last week--in his (like Kaneta) distinctive voice. As noted in a past listing here, Kohyama's work graces the cover of the current Museum of Fine Arts, Boston catalog. From that catalog, and also on the Tokyo exhibition brochure, "Kohyama has traveled, taught, and exhibited his work throughout the world but has never wavered in his loyalty to Shigaraki, his town of birth and one of Japan's longest-established centers of ceramic production. His first independent kiln, set up in 1968, was an anagama-a simple tunnel kiln with a single chamber-the first in the Shigaraki valley. In the 1970s, he began to study and emulate Sueki, a natural ash-glazed stoneware made from the fifth to twelfth century, which places its origins even earlier than the oldest wares from Shigaraki. Using Shigaraki clay that still retains rough inclusions of feldspar and other minerals, Kohyama fires his works for about a week at more than 2350 degrees Fahrenheit(1300 degrees Celsius). This produces the much-admired orange-brown color associated with Shigaraki ware, but Kohyama goes even further, firing one or two more times to produce an austere, grayish surface that is similar to some Sueki wares. Kohyama uses these ancient materials and technologies to create sculptural ceramics with a modern sensibility. 'Wind' is a striking example of his recent work (the cover piece on the catalog), made by building coil upon coil of clay, which he sculpts and then carves using steel wires. The base is the smallest possible size and angle of the cantilevered upswing, it suggests the effects of natural forces on the surface of the earth-in Kohyama's case, the erosion of a desert rock by wind-born sand." (Excerpted from Contemporary Clay;Japanese Ceramics for the New Century" by Joe Earle)

Both Kaneta and Kohyama, although of different generations, are extremely important ceramic artists for their respective towns, taking local clay and spirit in new directions.


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