search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

shimaoka-sensei show at the pucker

updated sat 9 sep 00


John Baymore on fri 8 sep 00

Hi all. =

As promised... a quick "preview" of the Shimaoka-sensei show at the Pucke=
Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston, MA which will officially open on thi=
Saturday. The title of the show is "The Beauty of Use; New Work". I fee=
a little sensitive about "reviewing" a show of Shimaoka-sensei's.........=
so I gotta' say that this is just one man's humble impressions, it isn't =
formal "review" or "critique" and I really have absolutely NO
qualifications at all to "judge" his work.

The first thing that hit me this evening was the fact that at 80-somethin=
years old......... Shimaoka-sensei is still trying new ideas and pushing
the envelope with his work. There were some really different, looser
pieces in this show. This show is not just a rehash of the same stuff th=
he had there in the last show. No... he is not suddenly working lowfire
oxidation and in bright primary colors on non functional forms...........=

but he continues to explore the possibilities within the realm of techniq=
he has been exploring for years. I think that's pretty neat, and a lesso=
for us all!

Another important aspect for me is that there are also pieces that are
fundamentally the same as he has been making for 30-40 years. To me thes=
represent the bedrock upon which he has built a solid foundation.... a
place to come home to....... a tradition....but not a real mingei
tradition.... but his OWN tradition as an artist potter, not a mingei
potter. They come across not as tired old xeroxes..... but as simply as
old friends and trusted companions. These pieces are SO
comfortable........... the old "born, not made" thing that Yanagai and
Hamada spoke of, but interpreted in a slightly different way. This
ingrained, skillful, well-owned "core visual vocabulary" is another good

The work is beautifully installed, and is done in the Japanese exhibition=

manner of multiple pieces on shelves along the walls as oposed to the mor=
western "pot on pedestal with spotlight" approach. There are a couple of=

old tansu chests used to display work. The pieces have room to breathe..=
but there are plenty of them for the space. Some pieces are on turntable=
so that you can rotate them to see the whole 360 degrees.

The most powerful piece for me was one paddled bottle form that was fired=

unglazed. It had rope texture on the body without colored slip inlay, wi=
a freely looping arabesque pattern painted in dark black slip/stain over
the texture. The sholders had nice goma ash accumulation, and the form h=
some nice scorching from charcoal and flame impingement. Another killer
piece was a squared off paddled vase with sholder lugs that had rope
texture on the main body. Again blessed by the gifts of the wood fire. =

The lower half of the body had a waving blue slip pattern in the rope
textured areas. VERY different and powerful.

There were a couple of pieces where the "windows" for some overglaze enam=
painting weren't "hard" geometric shapes... but soft "blobby" frames for
looser brushwork. Some enamel painting was much looser than previously. =

There was some glaze on glaze detail trailing that was a bit different. =

The use of color in the inlay slip seems to be increasing. =

A large room full of his pieces is very impressive (sugoi desu, ne'.). Y=
they don't scream........... they just exude natural power. The pieces
don't fight with each other for attention...... they co-exist
peacefully..... in familial harmony.

As always..... his prices are high. But once again they seemed to be jus=
a little lower than the prices for his work in Japan that I remember. Th=
least expensive works are typified by some yunomi at $700.00 to $800.00,
the bulk of the work is probably in the $3000.00 - $5000.00 range, there
are a number of pieces in the $16,000.00 to $18,000.00 range, and the
highest priced piece is a large 57 cm plate for $35,000.00. There were
lots of dots on pieces already and the show hasn't yet opened. Typically=

his Pucker shows pretty much sell out... and I expect this one will too.

There is a nice color catalog, as usual. And they have a GREAT video tap=
playing (suprisingly in English) documenting Shimaoka'sensei's work in
Mashiko. My guess is that this is the tape that David (or Phil) was
mentioning from the San Diego Mingeikan Shimaoka Retrospective show (the
director of that museum was there this evening too.) They have a few
copies of the retrospective show catalog sitting around too.

Shimaoka sensei seemed very healthy and spry and was clearly enjoying
himself. He spoke eloquently about his work (my out of practice Japanese=

got about 20 percent of it without the translator ), the work of potte=
in general, gave some credit to his assistants and apprentices, talked of=

the impending death of the "workshop tradition" in Japan since no one wan=
to be "assistants" anymore (he says everyone wants to be "artists" after
they apprentice a short while), and talked about the nature of his genera=
production cycle in Mashiko. At one point he lamented the plethora of
potters in all countries that have no personal identity in their
work......... he called it an "international style" that is really no sty=
at all. He mentioned that he liked Jeff Shapiro's work......... that he
didn't make Japanese Bizen knockoffs... but he made American, NY state
unglazed bizen-type work.

So.... hope some of you can get to see the show in person. I'll be there=

Saturday afternoon for the opening (after spending the AM at the NH
Institute of Art cranking out bowls in a throw-athon for an Empty Bowls
project). If you happen to be at the Pucker at the same time....... say



PS: Don't forget Phil's pots in the upstairs galleries too .

PPS: There are still a few Onda pots in the room with the video tape
playing behind the main gallery rooms.

John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA

603-654-2752 (s)
800-900-1110 (s)

"Earth, Water, and Fire Noborigama Woodfiring Workshop August 18-27,