New Acquisitions: 2017
Bridging modern and traditional styles, these two sculptures support a central focus of the Sackler Gallery’s contemporary Japanese ceramics collection—the evolution of practice in Kyoto. They also expand the collection’s representation of the generation that first felt and incorporated international trends in postwar studio ceramics.
Morino Taimei’s grandfather and father were potters, and he grew up in the Gojōzaka neighborhood of ceramics workshops in Kyoto. At the Kyoto City University of Arts, he trained with Tomimoto Kenkichi (1886–1963), designated a Living National Treasure for his gold-inflected porcelain decoration. At the same time, international exhibitions at the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art exposed Morino and his cohort to the cheekily experimental work of American and European ceramicists.
Attracted to this larger world, Morino secured a position teaching ceramics at the University of Chicago in the 1960s and immersed himself in contemporary art movements. Back in Japan, he became an influential spokesman for international ceramics energy. At the same time, he began showing his work in the Nitten’s annual exhibitions of modernist art, rising to a position of leadership in that increasingly conservative institution.
The vertical, screenlike form of these two ceramics has recurred in Morino’s sculptural clay work since the 1960s. Both works are punctuated by paired central passages activated by arching clay coils. A painterly touch distinguishes their coloration, which was applied after the forms were fired to stoneware temperature. With quick, short, irregular brushstrokes, Morino skimmed several coats of matte, coppery-green or red-orange low-temperature glaze over the roughly combed surfaces. Dark silver patches along the edges intensify a somber darkness that shows through the color.
Part of a 2004 series, the sculptures became a pair when American collectors Halsey and Alice North purchased them from the artist that year. As collectors, the Norths were pioneers in initiating intensive hands-on engagement with artists. Along with objects, they collected stories and built personal connections. The 2005–7 exhibition of their collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Japan Society in New York ignited a fervor among Americans for collecting contemporary Japanese ceramic work and set a standard for quality. These two sculptures also were exhibited in Boston as part of Celebrating Kyoto: Modern Arts from Boston’s Sister City (2008-9) and in New York as part of The Resonance between Form and Color II: Ceramic Art of Morino Hiroaki Taimei (2016).
Recently, the Norths donated a significant portion of their collection, as well as their archives and library, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Along with the Morino pieces, they have generously given the Sackler Gallery works by the Kyoto artists Yagi Akira and Yamada Hikaru and the Kyoto-trained Kyushu ceramist Nagayoshi Kazu.