Dual Natures in Ceramics: Eight Contemporary Artists from Korea / SFO Museum, San Francisco

Dual Natures in Ceramics: Eight Contemporary Artists from Korea / SFO Museum, San Francisco
May 17, 2014 - February 22, 2015

“In modern art, as everyone knows, the beauty of deformity is very often emphasized, insisted upon. But how different is Korean deformity. The former is produced deliberately, the latter naturally. Korean work is merely the natural result of the artisan’s state of mind, which is free from dualistic man-made rules.”
—Bernard Leach (1887–1979)

Renowned British studio potter Bernard Leach once acknowledged that Korean potters are admired for their naturalism and spontaneity in creating ceramics. Scholars have attempted to define the beauty of Korean ceramics as “artless art” or “unplanned plan.” Indeed, Korean ceramics have been produced by the second nature of matured, skilled hands, sometimes transcending any rules, knowledge, and intentions.

During the twentieth century, Korean artists and theorists grappled with the interplay of modernization and tradition. Some artists looked to the genuine, fresh, and fundamental qualities of Korean potters from the past as inspiration to create more appealing modern concepts. Through Korean ceramics, they have explored a dialogue between the traditional and the contemporary as well as East and West.

The eight artists in this exhibition revive and reinterpret aspects of traditional Korean ceramics in various ways. Yoon Kwang-cho and Lee Kang Hyo discover artistic freedom in Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) buncheong (white-slipped stoneware) ceramics and apply white slip in playful and innovative ways. Buncheong is a distinctive type of Korean ceramic that flourished during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Both artists’ ceramics have the whimsical, rustic, and audacious characteristics of buncheong in addition to contemporary elements. Joseon dynasty whiteware was the main foundation for Kim Yik-yung and Park Young Sook. Park has experimented on the uniquely Korean globular jar, the so-called ‘moon jar,’ while simultaneously exploring other Korean porcelains including a blue-white ware shown in this exhibition. Embracing whitewares’ core traditions, Kim Yik-yung complements innovative surface treatments and explores new types of glaze.

Techniques used in traditional Korean ceramics are another matter for the artists in this exhibition. Roe Kyung Jo is known for his marbled-ware technique (yeollimun). The technique was traditionally used for celadon wares, but Roe applies it to other wares. Onggi, a form of earthenware that predates porcelain production, served various purposes in Korean households. Lee Inchin started his works based on onggi wares but expands the technique using new kinds of glazes and experimenting with their applications.

Koo Bohnchang and Yeesookyung go further in interpreting traditional Korean ceramics. Through photographs and video art (newly created for this exhibition), Koo reveals the organic qualities of Korean ceramics that have been overlooked or disregarded by our bare eyes. Yee utilizes and renders the superfluous aspect in ceramic production. Using abandoned ceramic shards, she translates the original concepts of ceramics into more innovative sculptural works that sometimes puzzle the viewers about the concept of ceramics as art in the twenty-first century.

Although their techniques, methodologies, and approaches are different from each other, these eight artists playfully add complex layers onto the history of Korean ceramics through their own interpretations and expressions. Dual Natures brings fresh perspectives to traditional Korean ceramics and suggests new paths of expression for a new century.

This exhibition is co-organized by the Asian Art Museum and SFO Museum and is curated by Hyonjeong Kim Han, Associate Curator of Korean Art, with assistance from Silvia Hari Chang, and Chihyun Lee at the Asian Art Museum.

Dual Natures in Ceramics is located in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F. The exhibition is located post-security and is only accessible to passengers ticketed for travel through Terminal 3. There is no charge to view the exhibition.

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Turn, Weave, Fire, and Fold: Vessels from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection / SFO Museum, San Francisco

Vessels from the Forrest L Merrill Collection at SFO Museum, San Francisco

Turn, Weave, Fire, and Fold: Vessels from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection / SFO Museum, San Francisco
January 25 - June 1, 2014

New exhibition presents an exploration of the vessel in work by Bob Stocksdale, Kay Sekimachi, June Schwarcz, and James Lovera.

Collector Forrest Merrill has an affection for the vessel. Its form, sometimes alluding to the sensuous curves of a human body, holds irresistible appeal for him. So too does its familiar scale, which allows a vessel to be cradled in the palms of one’s hands. Forrest’s first art acquisition was in 1950 at a clay and glass exhibition in Pasadena, California, that he attended with his high school art club. With forty dollars earned from cutting neighbors’ lawns the previous summer, Forrest purchased a slumped-glass salad set by Glen Lukens, a pioneer in studio crafts then teaching at U.S.C. in Los Angeles. Forrest’s newly discovered passion for the vessel led to his collecting Scandinavian ceramics while attending the University of Stockholm in Sweden. After settling in Northern California, he became close friends with Bauhaus-trained potter Marguerite Wildenhain, who worked and taught at her studio in the hills above Guerneville, California. It was Wildenhain whom Forrest credits as the influence who encouraged him “to not only look, but to see.”

The San Francisco Bay Area was an exciting place during the 1960s, especially in the world of crafts, with local artists pushing the boundaries in every medium. Forrest took full advantage of their close proximity, and his acquisitions were decidedly personal. It was during this period that Forrest discovered the elegant bowls of wood turner Bob Stocksdale at the Berkeley home-furnishings store Fraser’s. Forrest approached the artist with an offer of wood from trees that he had cut down in his yard, and thereafter acquired a bowl that Bob made from that very wood. This was the beginning of a rich and enduring friendship with both Stocksdale and his wife, fiber artist Kay Sekimachi. Celebrated for her sculptural monofilament hangings and woven room dividers, Sekimachi was exploring vessel forms at the time, which materialized as woven boxes and baskets, and leaf bowls.

In 1974, Forrest met artist June Schwarcz at an exhibition of her enamel vessels at the Anneberg Gallery in San Francisco. An invitation of tea and conversation at June’s Sausalito home and studio led to a close relationship, which they have enjoyed for decades. And it was an invitation to lunch that sparked Forrest’s friendship with potter James Lovera, just prior to Lovera’s retrospective exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento in 2006. Forrest had admired Lovera’s ceramics offered at Gump’s gallery in San Francisco as early as the 1960s, and he has since acquired a number of Lovera’s vessels, more recently collecting the artist’s work in depth.

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