Ryota AOKI 1

New Ceramics Laboratory Vol. 1

July 02, 2009 - September 30, 2009
July 2 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Ryota Aoki was born in 1978. He dresses in Comme de Garcons fashions, wears a turban and ear piercings and works in a studio that looks like a secret hide-away with made-in-Japan rap blaring in the background. But what he does there is to engage in a conversation with the soil of Japan, with its earth. Aoki is a potter who has brought the refined and super-conservative ivory tower world of ceramics, remote from contemporary Japan, into the middle of cutting-edge street culture. In his 20s, Aoki did not have a fancy academic pedigree; he had made and placed clothing and jewelry in boutiques and apprenticed in a beauty salon, but neither job lasted long. While attending a pottery class in his spare time, Aoki was suddenly inspired with a vision of being a potter covered in clay and creating beauty -- and on the spot, he set his sight on becoming a first class potter.

For Japanese ceramics, the soul of Japan's traditional aesthetic flourished in the 16th and 17th century. At that time, the Way of Tea reached unprecedented level of refinement and the generals of the Warring States period competed for famous utensils. Aoki learned about the remarkable activities of these potters from a popular serialized manga and has been tireless in sharing their achievements with the people of his generation. 'The ceramic arts degenerated because people were only trying to reproduce things like the Shino and Oribe pieces that were made in the Momoyama Period.' Aoki says, "My role is to inherit the spirit of the Momoyama Period and make pottery that fits in with our world today." By creating a network of potters about 30 years old, he is making steady progress in building up the kind of momentum that existed 400 years ago.

In Aoki's studio, there is an array of beakers containing various clays and glazes; and when he discovers a new material or color, he is tireless in trying this or that scientific experiment until he can re-create them. In that spirit, the theme of his first exhibition here at ippodo New York is "The New Ceramics Laboratory." It provides a multi-faceted view of Aoki's experiments with clays, temperature, texture, glazes, techniques (mold or wheel) and size. One example is 'Bijoux' which joins two bowls created after returning from a half a year studying in Switzerland.

Aoki learns from the structural beauty of Lucie Rie's work, from the ultra thin-walled porcelains of Taizo Kuroda and from the creations of historical potters such as Koetsu in order to create contemporary ceramics 'Ima-yaki' ("Today's Ware"). Keiji Ito, a philosopher-like potter, has had a great influence on Aoki's thinking. Aoki emulates Ito's efforts to create refined beauty from the awe of nature that constitutes the primitive creative impulse -- primitive man consigning to the flames an implement to be offered to the gods.

Interest in Aoki's story is such that a Japanese documentary TV-maker has been chronicling his life, and this New York exhibition will be the final segment. And toward the end of July, Sen So'oku, the future Grand Master of the Mushakoji Senke Traditional School of Tea, is planning to use Aoki's tea utensils in a thought-provoking Tea in the Gallery.

[ Ryota Aoki ]
1978 Born in Toyama, Japan
2002 Graduate from Tajimi City Pottery Design And Technical Center, Gifu
Having a studio in Toki, Gifu
2004 Invited as a trainee to Ecole de arts decoratifts Geneve

2002 Tableware Festival
Asahi Modern Craft Exhibition 2003 Craft Competition in Takaoka - Silver Award
2004 Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award (Australia)- Silver Award
2005 Craft Competition in Takaoka - Grand prix
International Triennial of Silicate Arts (Hungary)
Tableware Festival
Lifestylist of the Year 2005
2006 Tableware Festival - Grand prix
2007 4th World Ceramic Biennale 2007 Korea (Korea) - Silver Award
2008 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale 2008(Taiwan)