Posted by: groundsforsculpture | July 24, 2010

Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu

By Guest Curator, Cary Y. Liu, Curator of Asian Art, Xiaojin Wu, Assistant Curator of Asian Art with the assistance of Zoe Saunders, Class of 2010.

Toshiko Takaezu. Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum

The Exhibition Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu is on view at the Princeton University Art Museum, June 26–September 11, 2010.

One of the attributes of Toshiko Takaezu’s ceramics for which she is best known is the closing of the vessel form. Once closed, the emptiness is sealed within, while the clay form gains presence and becomes a work of art. In this seemingly simple act, Takaezu was at the vanguard in an artistic revolution that elevated ceramics from a craft to an art. The closed ceramic forms also resonate with sound that lingers in memory. If you lift many of the vessels to shake them, a rattle inserted by the artist before closing the form can be heard from within. This sonic aspect connects Takaezu’s ceramics with her casting of bronze bells, such as the Remembrance bell erected on the Princeton University campus in memory of thirteen alumni who tragically lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Over twenty ceramics forms by the artist are selected from a group of recent gifts from the artist, as well as works previously in the Museum and University collections. Unique to the exhibition are several ceramic pairings by the artist among her own work, as well as with the painting of another artist.

It was the “unique dialogue between the artist and her work” that captured the attention of Cary Liu, curator of Asian art. “What speaks loudly in each creation is the dialogue between the artist’s hands, the careful working and nurturing of the clay, the dance of glaze and colors, and the magical whim of fire.” The organic and unmistakably handmade appearance of Takaezu’s forms conveys the artist’s presence and is a testament to her creative process. The preservation of fingerprints in the glaze of some pieces also serves as visual memory of the artist. These reminders of Takaezu’s presence manifest the theme of remembrance in her work, best exemplified in her Remembrance bell. Although the bell is not displayed, its memory pervades the exhibition.

One of eleven children, Takaezu was born in 1922 in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, to immigrant parents from Japan. In 1948 she enrolled at the University of Hawaii, where she studied ceramics under the tutelage of Claude Horan (born 1917). She continued her studies in 1951 at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan, mentored by the influential Finnish ceramist and teacher Maija Grotell (1899–1973). After traveling and studying in Japan, she joined the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1955, and then, from 1967 to 1992, she taught in the Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University. Takaezu received Princeton’s Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities in 1992 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1996. Her art is currently held in many prominent museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the National Museum in Bangkok, the National Museum of Art in Kyoto, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Princeton University is fortunate to have a collection of thirty-three of Takaezu’s ceramic forms in the Museum, three works in the Program of Visual Arts, and the Remembrance bell on campus in the memorial garden on the west side of East Pyne Hall.

Toshiko Takaezu’s sculpture The Three Graces is on exhibition at Grounds For Sculpture along the main path, next to the lake.

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