For Students
Porcelain with blue underglaze painting

Kondô Yûzô (1902-1985)
Blue-and-white jar, circa 1960
Porcelain with blue underglaze painting
18.6 cm x 16 cm x 16 cm
Museum Purchase, 1963/2.78

Touring Exhibitions:

Turning Point: Japanese Studio Ceramics in the mid-20th century

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is organizing an exhibition exploring a crucial period of contemporary ceramic art in Japan, entitled Turning Point: Japanese Studio Ceramics in the mid-20th century. During this period, Japanese studio potters redefined the art of clay from a “craft” to an artistic form in which individual expression was emphasized over particular styles or production sites. After presenting the works of pioneering potters who initiated the early stage of the change in the 1930s, this exhibition pays special attention to works from the 1950s and 1960s, when potters’ personal visions became the central interest and invited a burst of new expressions in ceramic art.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on the works by three potters, Hamada Shôji, Kawai Kanjirô and Tomimoto Kenkichi. These ambitious potters were drawn to the simple aesthetics of Japanese and Korean folk pottery and took great inspiration from the self-critical eyes of Yanagi Sôetsu (1869-1961), philosopher and founder of the Mingei (“folk art”) movement. They researched techniques and materials of traditional folk potteries from Japan and abroad, and strived to establish themselves as individual artists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Hamada frequently visited the United States and Europe and contributed to the spread of Mingei-type pottery in the West.

Another group of potters tried to find their own artistic voice by returning to the roots of Japanese ceramic tradition of tea ceremony wares. The second section highlights works of Arakawa Toyozô, Kaneshige Tôyô, Takahashi Rakusai, and Miwa Jusetsu, who, in the 1930s, began collecting and researching tea potteries produced in the Momoyama and early Edo period (late 16th – mid 17th century), and revived lost techniques of such historical wares as Shino, Bizen, Shigaraki, and Hagi.

The third section presents the studio ceramics created in the 1950s and 1960s. The world of studio ceramics greatly expanded after World War II, when potters saw new opportunities and venues for presentation and aspired to break conventional modes of expression. They freely tried different styles, materials, techniques, and some ventured into non-utilitarian ceramics and ceramic sculptures. By the 1960s, it became not uncommon for an individual potter to create diverse types of works as seen in Katô Takuo’s white porcelain bowl and Shino ware bottle.

This exhibition is made possible in part by the University of Michigan's Center for Japanese Studies, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Charles H. & Katharine C. Sawyer Endowment Fund, The Japan Foundation, New York, the Japan Business Society of Detroit Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

On View:
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo, Michigan
September 10 through December 4, 2011

View exhibition specifications >>

For further information about UMMA touring exhibitions, please contact Katharine Derosier, Exhibitions Coordinator, by telephone at 734.615.8186 or by email at