Vessel Explored / Vessel Transformed - Tomimoto Kekichi and his Enduring Legacy


Joan B Mirviss LTD , New York , USA

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NEW YORK, NY December 2018 JOAN B MIRVISS LTD with the invaluable assistance of Japan's leading modern ceramic dealer, Shibuya Kurodatoen Co., LTD is honored to present Vessel Explored / Vessel Transformed: Tomimoto Kenkichi and his Enduring Legacy. This groundbreaking exhibition and its accompanying publication, the first of its type outside Japan, focuses on the remarkable artist and teacher, Tomimoto Kenkichi. While, a relative unknown in the west, Tomimoto is revered as the father of his field. He was the most significant figure in the world of twentieth-century Japanese ceramics and his impact continues through his gifted and inspired former pupils and their talented students, many of whom are now professors of ceramics. Together they have transformed and surpassed the classical standard for functional ceramic excellence-devotion to the ancient Chinese traditions or allegiance to the late 16th- century Momoyama tea wares- and brought to their oeuvres a new, contemporary, and highly influential sensibility. Furthermore, this caused the ancient system of familial kilns and stylistic heritages to give way to university relationships that spawned artistic families of their own. Without Tomimoto himself and his legacy of pupils, Japan would not be in the preeminent position as champion of contemporary clay that it is today.
"The legacy of Tomimoto left his students, through his many texts and instructions at university, is of utmost importance to the history of Japanese art and deserves a separate study. The discourse of modern Japanese ceramics was profoundly affected by Tomimoto's teachings." (Meghan Jones, Dissertation, 2014, p. 287)
As a technical innovator and genius with surface decoration, Tomimoto Kenkichi was the founder of the ceramics department at Kyoto City University of Arts, which profoundly believed that patterns should never be reused, and took inspiration from nature in order to keep his work fresh and new often instructing his students:
"For pattern, look to nature and its beauty- form, line, and color. Study and understand how they are structured."
Not born into a traditional pottery family but educated in things western, having traveled in the West and befriended the major English ceramic artist, Bernard Leach; Tomimoto had a much broader view of Japanese ceramics than many of his contemporaries. As a teacher, he expounded on the importance of individuality, originality, and the confluence of forms and patterns. Throughout his life, he remained steadfast in his own beliefs and attempted to instill these ethical values in his pupils.
Vessel Explored / Vessel Transformed: Tomimoto Kenkichi and his Enduring Legacy will showcase works by the teacher himself along with ceramics by his former pupils, artists and teachers in their own right and their pupils. In all, some of the greatest stars of Japanese modern ceramics and contemporary ceramics will be on show. Below is a selection from the artists being included.
Contemporaries of Tomimoto- students and colleagues
KAWAI Kanjirō
YAGI Kazuō
Second Generation Students of Tomimoto Kenkichi 
FUJIMOTO Yoshimichi Nōdō
KURIKI Tatsusuke
WADA Morihiro
Third Generation Artists (included in catalogue)
KONDŌ Takahiro
MAEDA Masahiro
OGAWA Machiko
In putting together the seminal publication to accompany our legacy exhibition, we are honored to have enlisted the services of esteemed experts in this area: Kida Takuya, Professor at Musashino Art University and author of numerous articles on this topic, Meghen Jones, Assistant Professor of Art History at Alfred University who wrote her dissertation on Tomimoto, and emerging scholar Trevor Menders. Their essays are complemented by recollections from several of Tomimoto's former pupils and pioneers in their own right.