On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
In this monumental work, Yanagihara Mutsuo combines curvaceous, biological forms with precise lines and sumptuous metal finishes. Yanagihara is part of a group of Japanese ceramic artists active in the late twentieth century who strove to reintroduce eye-catching glazes and patterns in their wares. They sought to contradict the conventional wisdom, at the time, that the addition of surface embellishment diminished the impact of three-dimensional forms. Yanagihara acknowledged that his voluptuous, metallic vessels lacked restraint, but he said that they were in keeping with the decadence and rampant materialism he witnessed in both Japan and the West in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ceramic with metallic (ginsai) glazes
20 × 14 3/4 × 10 in. (50.8 × 37.5 × 25.4 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Joan B. Mirviss in memory of Leslie Beller
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Yanagihara Mutsuo (Japanese, born 1934). Tsubo Vessel, 1998-1999. Ceramic with metallic (ginsai) glazes, 20 × 14 3/4 × 10 in. (50.8 × 37.5 × 25.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Joan B. Mirviss in memory of Leslie Beller, 2017.45 (Photo: , 2017.45_PS9.jpg)
overall, 2017.45_PS9.jpg., 2017
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Upright cylindrical vessel with a bulging base, standing on a small footring. The lip dips down at one side to create a U-shaped opening that is accentuated by a rolled rim. The body of the vessel is decorated on both interior and exterior surfaces with abstract, somewhat biomorphic forms in three shades of silver metallic glaze.
The artist was one of the leaders of a movement in the 1980s and 1990s in which surface ornament was reintroduced as an important element in sculptural forms. These Japanese ceramicists created complex dialogues between three dimensional and two dimensional shapes in which the broad abstractions painted on the surface sometimes correspond to the swelling of the vessel, but in other cases -- such as the use of straight edges and sharp corners -- contrast with it.
Yanagihara often infuses his vessels with subtle social commentary, commenting on the role of ceramics in consumer culture by covering pieces in silver or gold. He also occasionally employs sexual imagery to rebel against the pretenses of sobriety and refinement that have infused Japanese ceramic connoisseurship since the development of the tea ceremony more than 500 years ago.
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