Five ceramic artists with ties to Bizen are showing at Lucy Lacoste Gallery in BIZEN REVISITED, November 5 - December 3, 2022 in Concord, MA. This is a lineage exhibition bringing together, for a second time, the internationally renowned artists of Generational Crossroads: Bizen Evolution, a historic exhibition which took place 16 years earlier at the same location. The artists—three Japanese and two American -- are Isezaki Jun, Living National Treasure of Bizen; Kakurezaki Ryuichi, once an apprentice to Isezaki Jun and now a star of the Japanese art scene; Jeff Shapiro, mentored by Isezaki Jun and colleague of Kakurezaki; Tim Rowan, who apprenticed with Kakurezaki; and Isezaki Koichiro, Jun’s son who apprenticed with Jeff Shapiro. Each artist has maintained a vibrant approach to their work that, can be seen in the evolution of this important exhibition at Lucy Lacoste Gallery.
While Generational Crosssroads in 2006 highlighted the teacher/apprentice relationship as a way of teaching art, Bizen Revisited shows the artists as equals thriving and continuing to evolve artistically. Each was asked to present five pieces that represent their newest works, as well as a selection of teabowls and sake cups. This historic exhibition is marked by a commemorative sake set with one cup by each of the five artists, in a custom designed box that is signed and stamped by the artists.
Bizen, a province in Japan, is known for a style of pottery making going back thousands of years in which the elements of clay and fire are foremost, and pots are fired unadorned in a wood-burning kiln. According to Isezaki Jun, the current Living National Treasure of Bizen, “Pottery begins with clay. This is the essential and most basic element of the ceramic production. To this the artist brings wisdom, experience, and technique, and then it is given to the element of fire to complete the process. I believe that as a ceramic artist it is most important to become free. The work must express and take the form of the spirit and soul of the creator.”
Like the Generational Crossroads exhibition, Bizen Revisited pays homage to Isezaki Jun, sensei, as source of the teaching of tradition, communicating the importance of clay and fire as the most important elements of pottery and his belief that as a ceramic artist, it is most important to become free.
Isezaki Jun was born in 1936 in Okayama Prefecture, Japan and graduated from Okayama University. With his brother, Mitsuru and father Yozan, one of the great 20th century sculptor-potters, he reconstructed and fired an ancient anagama kiln. After traveling world-wide and winning many awards, Isezaki Jun became the fifth Living National Treasure of Bizen in 2004 and is considered one of the foremost masters of the Bizen style. While using the traditional Bizen clay and incorporating the Bizen firing techniques, his vessels demonstrate unique, one-of-a-kind details of form and are often hand-formed. During his career, he has been most welcoming to apprentices, both men and women, from Japan and beyond. The works of Isezaki Jun can be found in the British Museum London, UK; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA; the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; among select other public and private collections.
According to Isezaki Jun, the true meaning of tradition is continued renewal “creating something new that represents the present and tradition in equal measure.”
Kakurezaki Ryuichi, born in 1950 in Fukue, Nagasaki, is highly celebrated in Japan, an artist whose exhibitions sell out within hours. Growing up in Nagasaki on the island of Kyushu from a non-pottery making family gives him a certain freedom as the outsider, a mantel he wears well. After graduating from Osaka University of Arts Design department, Kakurezaki initially worked for a design company. Once he encountered Bizen pottery, he shifted his direction. After a long apprenticeship with Isezaki Jun, Kakurezaki went on to become one of the most experimental potters in Japan, inspiring other potters and establishing a standard of creativity all his own. He now lives in Imbe, Bizen where he built his first kiln in 1984. Kakurezaki has been awarded numerous prizes in Japan and his work has been exhibited at diverse galleries and museums both in Japan and overseas. Recently Kakurezaki was made Prefectural Cultural Treasure, a step before Living National Treasure.
“Japanese pottery is handed down from generation to generation with a constant awareness of contemporariness based upon tradition. Perhaps in America they are separate but in the Japanese way, progressive thought and tradition coexist as the front and back of the same page.” - Kakurezaki Ryuichi
Isezaki Koichiro, born in 1974, is represented by Lucy Lacoste Gallery and has shown here many times. Koichiro went to art school at Tokyo Sculptural University where he made wood sculpture. One day, thinking about how material effects the work and the artist’s mind, he asked “what about clay”. Koichiro made a conscious decision to become a ceramic artist, realizing he could do everything he wanted with clay. He then apprenticed with the American potter Jeff Shapiro who had been mentored by his father, Isezaki Jun. As a result, his work has a certain freedom and creativity.
While his work includes respect for the natural clays from the area and utilizes the traditional firing techniques, it leaps to the contemporary. Always he seeks personal expression, an impetus made stronger, by awareness of history.
“Fire often oozes out from the back and forth between materials and processes and in that interaction, you discover yourself and find your own direction. These days, I feel that the whole process is like a ‘living creature’. Put yourself in the flow, ride the flow, sometimes be swept away and sometimes resist. Don’t lose sight of your true purpose.” - Isezaki Koichiro
Jeff Shapiro was born in the Bronx, NY in 1949. He presently works and lives in upstate NY with his wife Hinako. Shapiro studied ceramic arts while living in Japan for nine years from 1973-1981. His work has been exhibited internationally in: Germany, France, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, England, and Japan and can be found in numerous museum collections including: The Carlo Zauli Museum, Faenza, Italy; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA; The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; The Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; The Fuller Museum, Brockton, MA. Shapiro has given workshops and seminars in many countries around the world and has built two wood fire kilns in Italy. In addition, he is known for the in-depth tours he leads to artist studios in Japan.
“I ‘look’ with the intent of perceiving the artistic elements of what I am viewing rather than the intellectual dissection of information. To that end, I want to be moved and inspired, and respond to the experiences I encounter. Though I am predominantly working in the wood fire genre at present, I choose to utilize whatever technique, tool or process necessary to best resolve the finished work.” - Jeff Shapiro
Tim Rowan was born in 1967 in New York City and grew up in Connecticut along the shore of Long Island Sound. His art education began during college, receiving a BFA from The State University of New York at New Paltz before journeying to Japan for 2 years to apprentice with Kakurezaki Ryuichi. Upon his return he worked briefly in studios in Massachusetts and New York before receiving his MFA from The Pennsylvania State University. Rowan established his kiln and studio deep in the woods of the Hudson Valley in 2000, where he lives with his wife and son. His works are seen internationally in solo and group exhibitions and in museum collections, including the Currier Art Museum in Manchester, NH, and the Fuller Craft Museum, in Brockton, MA.
“Ideas about originality or making something new are not what concern me, but rather making work that is representative of myself and my personal experience. The deeper I search in trying to come to some understanding of this existence and my own journey the more what I make takes on its own life. I see my current work as an extension of what I had been making 16 years ago. It's an exploration of clay, form, and fire where the artificial and the natural intersect.” - Tim Rowan
Education has always been a mission of Bizen, as it has been for Lucy Lacoste Gallery. We are pleased to present to the public this international exhibition showing the evolution of these five world-class artists springing from the long, expansive history of Bizen, and beyond.
Lucy Lacoste notes on this exhibition: Generational Crossroads, 2006, was a seminal exhibition for Lacoste Gallery, perhaps the greatest. I had to paint my gallery black; they were doing a movie on Jun, so a film crew came from Japan; and it became the gateway to Japan and showing all the great artists whom we met through Jeff Shapiro. Bizen Revisited honors that exhibition and the continued evolution of the artists involved as well as our friendship with them. I am forever grateful.
Bizen Revisited, was honored by a panel discussion with Koichiro Isezaki, Jeff Shapiro and Tim Rowan hosted by the Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, MA. The panel was be moderated by the noted Judith S. Schwartz, PhD, NYU Professor Emeritus; author of Confrontational Ceramics; Curator of national and international touring exhibitions; juror to national and international exhibitions. Trustee, Howard Kottler Trust, former Vice President, International Academy of Ceramics, Honorary member of NCECA and teaching excellence awardee.
"It was my desire and purpose for the discussion with the reunited artists of the Bizen Revisited exhibition to illuminate their evolution over the past years, uncover changes in their thinking, work patterns, and perceptions. It became apparent that while their connections and friendships have not changed, their work has taken new direction, greater risk and they collectively showed objects of uncommon beauty and inspired presence." – Judith S. Schwartz
View our Bizen Revisited show catalogue