Japanese Pottery and Travel Stories
Goshen College Visual Arts Gallery
12 July, 2010
My first reaction to this exhibit was one of curious pleasure mixed with acute apprehension. Asian ceramics always tweak my interest. My aunt Ruby FitzGerald (FitzRu) studied pottery under a Japanese Master (one of the first Western women to do so), and I have always freely lost myself in the Asian ceramics collections of the Art Institute Chicago and the Minneapolis Art Institute. On the other hand -- of what real use is an Asian ceramics collection?
I need not have worried. Dick Lehman is both an expert in the field of ceramics and an accomplished collector. Collected Meanings explores decades of collecting and travel experiences in Japan as both a record of an on-going cultural exchange between the United States and Japan, and as an educational introduction to the variety of methods, textures, finishes, and shapes historically common to Japanese ceramics.
One might begin Lehman’s tour in one of two ways. One might rush right into the cases of ceramics and begin exploring, or one might choose to engage the well placed magazine articles and travel memoirs posted along the wall.
I choose the former. Chronologically, the oldest pieces in the collection are pottery shards from prehistoric Japan. The most chilling are irradiated ceramic roof tiles from Hiroshima.
As a contrast, Lehman includes a highly polished, very refined incense burner -- the detail is meticulous and time consuming. Across the aisle two large serving dishes -- so common that it was deemed acceptable to leave the marks from having stacked them in the kiln embedded in their finish like inexpensive flower pot casters.
Certain exhibits are noted for their techniques. Dick Lehman has been experimenting with long firing techniques and with processes of embodying or the “rapid fossilization” of organic matter into clay designs. It is interesting to match his articles with the pieces ( Dick Lehman Gallery and Homepage ). The tray below shows samples of the “fossilization” or carbonization of seashells. This bowl shows a traditional Japanese leaf imprint finish.
Equally interesting was the chance to see various methods us imprinting using the same materials in different ways. This bowl indicates a “random” rope imprinting design. Contrast it with the precision of the rim on this platter.
Other samples show dyed designs such as this traditional horse-eye platter or the tokkuri (sake pitcher).
After a point, I strongly recommend that one just stands back to admire the organic shapes presented in the cases.
In all this is a great afternoon break. Lehman has done a great job integrating his website with the show. While his collection is not catalogued on the web-site, his cumulative writing for Ceramics Monthly are posted on the site. I would recommend browsing through them before heading over to the campus.
|Clay roofing tile rebaked during the WWII American atomic bombing of the city.|
|Bowl showing rope imprint design|
|Note the horse-eye pattern on this Traditional platter.|
|Note the imprints left by spacing casters on these "cheap" trays.|
|Platter showing rapid fossilization or carbonization technique|