The Ceramics of KOIE Ryoji

The Clay is Laughing

March 16, 2011 - May 07, 2011
Opening Reception: Tuesday, March 15, 5-8pm
Ryoji Koie

KOIE Ryoji was born in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture, an area renowned since ancient times as a center for the production of various types of pottery. Today, it is also famous for the mass-production of tiles and clay pipes. Born in 1938, KOIE Ryoji started work at a local tile factory immediately after graduating from high school and began producing his own pottery from the age of twenty. One of the most innovative and dramatic artists active today, his work has made him a world leader in the ceramics field, but he continues to live close to nature in the mountains where he excavates his own clay.

'Each work represents a message and its clay incorporates the time and place in which it was created.' His works, such as the one in which he expressed his anger against war and atomic weapons, inscribing it with the message, 'No more Hiroshima, Nagasaki', 'No more Chernobyl', created a sensation. His activities coincided with those of 'Sodeisha', a group of avant-garde, ceramic artists founded in 1948 by YAGI Kazuo, SUZUKI Osamu, etc., during the aftermath of the Second World War, but he has never belonged to any group himself, his unrestrained ideas smashing all boundaries and allowing him to establish a unique 'KOIE style' that combines past and future. Never having had a teacher or putting on airs as an artist, he has developed his work in his own individual way. Despite this, his studio acts as a congregation spot for friends and local children who like to stop by to play. The happiness, sadness, pleasure and pain that stems from interpersonal relationships serves to invigorate his clay on a daily basis.

He says, 'I want my work to spread like pollen from a flower' and like pollen he travels widely to demonstrate his work, having fired pots in America, the Britain, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and many other places, never ceasing to amaze the people who see them. When he talks to the clay, it laughs and answers him. The clay delights in his freedom and warmth and replies with a laugh. His work is wild yet intellectual, aggressive yet gentle, it is formed from damp clay that is then enveloped in flames to become KOIE himself. The current New York exhibition will feature forty of his works: a huge jar resembling Jupiter, pulled down from space, a vase that appears to have been plucked from nature, and tea bowls and sake cups that are 'gentle to the hand and lip', works that dance and laugh as they await their turn.

Asia Week Business Hours (March 15th - 26th): Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm

NOTE: We will be closed for the week of April 12-16. We will be exhibiting his works in SOFA New York.

KOIE Ryoji Profile:

1938 Born in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture
1957 Received diploma from Tokoname Prefectural High School Industrial Ceramics Department and
went to work at a tile manufacturing company.
1962 Became a researcher at the Tokoname Municipal Ceramics Research Institute
1966 Became independent

1972 The 30th Faenza International Exhibition of Ceramic Art (Italy)
1979 "Today's Japanese Ceramics" (Denver Museum of Art, USA)
1982 "Contemporary Japanese Ceramics" (Faenza & Rome, Italy)
1983 "Japanese Ceramics Today" (Smithsonian Museum, USA; Victoria & Albert Museum, England)
1986 "Avant-garde in Japan 1910-1970" (Centre National de Georges Pompidou, France)
"Japanese Contemporary Ceramics"(Travel exhibition in USA, Poland, Greek, Romania, Soviet,
and other Eastern European countries)
1989 "Europalia '89 Japan: Ceramics of Showa - Tradition and Avant-Garde" (Mons Museum of
Art, Belgium)
1992 Became Professor at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Art
1995 "Japanese Studio Craft" (Victoria & Albert Museum, England)
1997 "Seoul Ceramic Art Biennale 1997" (Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art, Korea)
2003 "Oribe:2003 in New York" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA)

Many solo and group shows at galleries and museums in Japan as well as worldwide

3rd Prize, Contemporary Japanese Ceramics Exhibition (1962)
Point and Line accepted, Asahi Ceramic Art Exhibition (1963-69)
Japanese Contemporary Craft Art Exhibition (1963-64)
Grand Prix, 3rd Biannual International Ceramics Exhibition, Vallauris, France (1971)
The 3rd Oribe Award (2001)
The Chunichi Cultural Award (2005)
Gold Prize, The Japan Ceramic Society Award (2008)

Public Collections:
Idemitsu Museum, Tokyo
The Museum of Fine Art, Gifu
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Tokoname Municipal Hall, Aichi
The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, Yamaguchi
Seoul Museum of Art, Korea
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Kyungsung University Museum, Busan, Korea
Museo de Art Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina
National Gallery of Victoria, Australia

Ronald Andrew Kuchta
Editor of American Ceramics

As one of Japan's most prolific, productive, well traveled, individualistic and controversial artists using clay as their favored medium, Ryoji Koie is the quintessential subject of one of his native country's most extensive art forms.
Representing himself as neither modern nor contemporary, he identifies himself with the earth and the very organic nature of those elements that ground possesses; the textures, the glazes, the water and the fire that erupts and arises deeply and sometimes explosively from the bowels of the earth and the planet in all it's primordial and dramatic glory. Consistently therefore in much of Koie's works the medium -clay- is the message.
A son of Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, long renowned for it's ceramic industries, Ryoji Koie graduated from that industrial epicenter having absorbed all the skills needed to become an independent artist and accomplished craftsman, capable of creating a wide range of work, from ceramics for use, primarily vessel forms with Shino, Oribe, Bizen and Yakishime ware most prominently utilized to his "ceramics for expression", often involving controversial themes in sculptural and installation modes conveying social and environment issues and messages in works such as "Return to Earth" with his own dissolving face in a series of ceramic blocks depicting a vanishing self portrait, and "No More Hiroshima and Nagasaki", and "Chernobyl" another series of ceramic blocks dealing with another environmental nuclear disaster, "Stealing God's Fire", "Testimonies" and "Animal Kiss" are rather surrealistic works and thought provoking but still fascinating. The horrors of war and man made catastrophic disasters causing vast human depravations are poignant subjects and uniquely prevalent in much of Koie's sculptural oeuvre.
In the era between earth art and post-modernism I think of Koie's art in an art world context and consider works of two famous artists I've known for many years. I refer to the installations of Robert Smithson and his well known "Spiral Jetty" made of earth and stone in the desert of Utah and the organic obsessive manifestations in the radically eccentric works of Yayoi Kusama, an intimate friend of mine, while she was living in New York many years ago.
I would place Ryoji Koie's diverse works somewhere between these various art world figures and laud him for his timely, bold and pertinent messages in clay, along with a host of masterfully fashioned cups and bowls shimmering and marked by esoteric lines and crevices to the delight of the human touch and with a universal resonance of the earth's most remarkable and intriguing natural resource that is clay.

New York, February 2011

"My works are a message"- Koie Ryoji
Martin Barnes Lorber
Former Director, Japanese Works of Art Department, Sotheby's New York

Born in Tokoname and immersed in its ancient ceramic tradition since childhood, Koie Ryoji made a loaded understatement in this simple sentence, as a genuine, outstanding individualist in a generation known for single-minded ceramic interpretations. Tokoname, one of the most ancient of Japanese kiln sites, is now known for mundane, modern utilitarian wares, such as drain pipes, as well as earthy, bold, masculine and idiosyncratic creations of more sophisticated function that began in the late 11th or early 12th century.
He lacks formal and traditional apprenticeship in the creation of Tokoname wares, yet he struck out with his own vision of creating ceramics that were and are still inspired by his strong anti-war and anti-violence beliefs, most of which evolved, like in the Sodeisha Ceramic Movement, in the wake of World War II. He subscribes to the same anti-art sentiments in the Western Avant-Garde of Pop Art, Neo-Dada and Conceptualism, but his art is even more anti-modernist. His argument against the tea ceramic tradition is that he finds it exclusionary, somewhat dismissive of Tokonome, and created by living artists with an eye to the Chado hierarchy. On the other end of that creative spectrum, he feels that teawares can be and should be on the hands of all. For that reason he throws himself into a non-exclusionary production in which the trio of earth, fire and man can be made mutually evident. In his mind, it is this tight melding of the three that can be the solution to world problems and the ongoing plague of inhumanity.
His artistic ceramics, first created at the age of 16 and beginning with his independence as a potter in 1966, have been exhibited and collected on an international level, and he has carried his message abroad by firing pots in America, Great Britain, Mexico, Italy and South Korea.
The twin driving forces behind his creative energy are fire and earth, and his concerted efforts to put them on full display in his works are consistently successful. By being a non-traditionalist, he excludes himself from allying himself with any artistic tradition, and easily and effortlessly works in the manner of varying ceramic traditions. His persimmon-glazed wares hark back to the classic Chinese tea bowls of Yaozhou or Red Dingyao; his whites can evoke 15th century Korean whites; his tsubo, those small but bold open-mouth storage jars, serve as mannequins for the contortions and glazes of Iga and Shigaraki; the unctuous green of Oribe; and the thick, glossy blacks of Raku. His unglazed, brown Bizen hanaire, created in an effortless manner that Kitaoji Rosanjin could not have imagined, are coarse, bold and appear to be of tectonic construction in which the broken surfaces do not uniformly adhere to a common outline from which it appears to peel away, almost as if nature itself were slowly disrobing.
In absorbing his multitudinous approaches to form, body and glaze, the question, therefore, can be asked whether his creations are contemporary pottery or contemporary art.

New York, February 2011

"The Pottery of Ryoji Koie"
Mark Lyman
President, The Art Fair Company, Inc
Producer of SOFA, New York, Chicago & Santa Fe

The making of pottery is physical. Thoughts and learnings of the intellect stay on guard. Clay in hand becomes an event. There is no 'inner meaning'. There is presence of material.
Ryoji Koie has put a stamp in soft clay. He has taken wood tool and moved it through the outer layer of the form. Pulled - pushed it across/through - slowly and fast. Straight line then arc. Slow wander. Mind's eye seeing what a potter sees; glaze pooling in crevice - dark line of glass revealing potting wheel turns. His experience of international art far reaching. A history of pots: Oribe, Bizen, an understanding, a living and knowing of this / joining his hand making marks. Cutting away material and leaving enough. Adding when the architecture calls for new structure. The picture of Ryoji Koie, seen in a video, cradling his newly made bowl – wiping clay slurry on surface and feeling the cool full form in its drying. There is no space between his fingers and the clay. He looks at his pot through dust-covered hand. It is right. Now ready for glazing and kiln.
In this exhibit Ryoji Koie gives us pots varying in clay types - stoneware - porcelain. Water jars, flower vases, tea bowls and slab plate. Each piece a record of the artist's moves and marks. In each is written his voice and his touch / his experience and his unity of dream and day. Of laugh and night. Not inner meaning. It is there in front of you: treasured virtuosity and venerate material. Arranged and random.

New York, February 2011

Ryoji Koie