IMAGES: AKIO TAKAMORI Google Images
- Huge Akio sculptures on Westlake in front of Whole Food
- Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
- Barry Friedman Ltd., New York
- James Harris Gallery, Seattle
- Flintridge Foundation page on Akio Takamori
- Review of Between Clouds and Memory
- “Boy in Yellow Sweater” with his friends at Garth Clark Gallery, NY.
- Akio with “Young Woman in White Dress”
- You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR0lk6AY-PE
- Interview at SOFA 2008 2 ½ minutes
- You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc0BBa2dFrk
- Akio Takamori ceramic workshop in Macau 2010 One Minute (Throwing)
- You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9igt_XL5xk
- Akio Takamori ceramic workshop in Macau 2010 3 Minutes (Building the Pieces_
Between Clouds of Memory: Akio Takamori, a Mid-career Survey, by Akio Takamori, Peter Held, and Garth Clark
Akio Takamori, currently residing in Seattle, was born in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan in 1950. The artist’s work, often autobiographical, has focused in recent years on figurative sculpture. The forms he creates of villagers, school children, shopkeepers and infants have been modeled from memory. Drawing on his childhood in Japan, Takamori creates loose communities of figures that are made up of individual pieces with unique, carefully crafted identities.
Growing up in postwar Japan, Takamori experienced a mélange of cultural influences. The son of a dermatologist who ran a clinic located near a red light district, Takamori was exposed to a wide range of people from an early age. At home, his father’s extensive library of both art and medical texts became a fascination for Takamori, who relished everything from Picasso reproductions to anatomical charts.
Takamori’s interest in the arts persisted into early adulthood and upon his graduation from the University of Tokyo, he apprenticed to a master folk potter at Koishiwara, Kyushu. While learning the craft of industrial ceramics in a factory setting, he saw a traveling exhibition of contemporary ceramic art from Latin America, Canada, and the United States. Blown away by what he describes as the “antiauthoritarian” quality of the work, Takamori began to question his future as an industrial potter. When renowned American ceramist Ken Ferguson visited the pottery, the two had an immediate rapport and Ferguson encouraged Takamori go to the United States and study with him at the Kansas City Art Institute.
In 1974 Takamori made the move to the United States, receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and later attending Alfred University in New York for his M.F.A.. After working as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, he moved to Seattle, Washington in 1993, where he took his current teaching position as associate professor of the ceramics department.
Takamori’s evolution as an artist began as he worked with Ferguson to break free of the constraints of industrial pottery and find new ways to express himself in clay. Since those first years at the Kansas City Art Institute his work has changed greatly, but it has always been figurative, based on the human body and expressive of human emotion and sensuality. In recent years the dramatic, overtly sexual imagery of the vessel forms of the 1980’s and early 90’s have given way to quieter, more contemplative sculptural works that reflect Takamori’s ever-evolving relationship to clay.
Through clay and works on paper, Akio Takamori explores human relationships: interpersonal, archetypal, social and historical. His whimsical and erotic envelope-vessel forms from the 1980s celebrate life’s intimate connections—lovers, family, mother and child—as well as couplings from mythology. Shapely nude forms are modeled in three-dimensional relief and outlined with a fluid calligraphy that emphasizes their contours. Painting the vessel’s interior as well as exterior surface, Takamori creates “a three-dimensional stage on which the dramatic spectrum of human experience and emotions are played out.” Objects and subject matter revel in dualities—inside and out, drawing and form, male and female, union and separation. Takamori’s work moved in a new direction during a 1996 residency at the European Ceramic Work Center in The Netherlands. He began to create groupings of standing figural sculptures “in which the space, scale, hierarchy, gesture and prominence of the figures initiated a new kind of open-ended dialogue with other pieces.” The figures portray historical characters, contemporary society and rural villagers recalled from the artist’s childhood in Japan. Takamori’s interest is in exploring “cumulative memory” and “the shifting historical, cultural, and racial perspectives that serve to form both individual and group identities.” Takamori came to the U.S. to study art in the mid-1970s. He has been on the faculty of the School of Art, University of Washington, Seattle, since 1993.
Craft in America — A Journal to the Artists, Origins and Techniques of American Craft
Akio Takamori (b. 1950) is a ceramic artist and educator in Seattle, Washington. He grew up in Japan, apprenticing to a master folk potter at Koishiwara, Kyushu after having graduated from the University of Tokyo.
While studying industrial ceramics in a factory setting, he attended an exhibition of contemporary ceramic art from Latin America, Canada, and the U.S. Attracted by what he describes as the “antiauthoritarian” quality of the work, Takamori determined (with the encouragement of the potter, Ken Ferguson) to emigrate to the U.S. and attend the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1974 he did just this, receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and his M.F.A. from Alfred University in New York State. He was a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana.
Akio Takamori is a Japanese-American ceramic sculptor and is a faculty member at the University of Washington.
Takamori was born in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan in 1950. The son of an obstetrician/gynecologist who ran a clinic, Takamori was exposed to a wide range of people from an early age. At home, his father’s extensive library of both art and medical texts became a fascination for Takamori, who relished everything from Picasso reproductions to anatomical charts.
Takamori’s interest in the arts persisted into early adulthood and upon his graduation from the Musashino Art College in 1971, he apprenticed to a master folk potter at Koishiwara, Kyushu. While learning the craft of industrial ceramics in a factory setting, he saw a traveling exhibition of contemporary ceramic art from Latin America, Canada, and the United States. Blown away by what he describes as the “antiauthoritarian” quality of the work, Takamori began to question his future as an industrial potter. When renowned American ceramist Ken Ferguson visited the pottery, the two had an immediate rapport and Ferguson encouraged Takamori go to the United States and study with him at the Kansas City Art Institute.
In 1974 Takamori made the move to the United States, receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and later attending Alfred University in New York for his M.F.A. After working as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, he moved to Seattle, Washington in 1993, where he took his current teaching position as associate professor of the ceramics department.
Takamori’s evolution as an artist began as he worked with Ferguson to break free of the constraints of industrial pottery and find new ways to express himself in clay. Since those first years at the Kansas City Art Institute his work has changed greatly, but it has always been figurative, based on the human body and expressive of human emotion and sensuality.
In the 1980s, Takamori worked innovatively with the vessel form and its structure, creating flat envelope shaped pots formed from slabs. Once the ceramic piece was finished, he would paint onto the surface adding details of the figures that he was representing. These figures often explored human relationships. His work in this format lasted about ten years.
In the mid 1990s a visit to the European Ceramic Work Center in The Netherlands resulted in a shift from vessels back to an early interest in sculpture and the figure. Takamori created groupings of standing figural sculptures. The figures portray historical characters, contemporary society and rural villagers recalled from the artist’s childhood in Japan.
Most of Takamori’s work has been strongly influenced by his Japanese heritage. He has translated traditional Japanese prints into three dimensional porcelain sculptures, he recreated his hometown in Japan from memory using clay, and he has translated Peter Bruegel’s paintings into sculptures of Japanese people.
- 2011 United States Artists
- 2006 Joan Mitchell Foundation
- 2003 Flintridge Foundation Awards for Visual Artists
- 2001 Virginia A. Groot Award
- 1996 Fellowship at Keramisch Werkcentrum, s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
- 1993 Fellowship at Keramisch Werkcentrum, s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
- 1992 National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant
- 1988 National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant
- 1986 National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant
- American Craft Museum, New York
- Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT
- Arizona State University Art Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center, Tempe
- The Arkansas Arts Center Decorative Arts Museum, Little Rock
- Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton FL
- Carnegie Institute Art Museum, Pittsburgh
- Hallmark Art Collection, Kansas City, MO
- Kansas City Art Institute, MO
- Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS
- The Kinsey Institute, OH
- The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN
- Kruithuis Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- The Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki, Japan
- The Museum of Ceramic Arts, Alfred, NY
- National Museum of History, Taipei, Republic of China
- Rhode Island School of Design Museum
- Spencer Museum of Art, Laurence, KS
- Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Republic of China
- Victoria & Albert Museum, London
- Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Canada
Selected Solo Exhibitions
- 2004 Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica
- 2003 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 2002 Grover/Thurston Gallery, Seattle
- 2001 Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica
- 2000 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1999 Grover/Thurston Gallery, Seattle
- 1998 Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, Robert Else Gallery, California State University, Sacramento
- 1997 Cohen/Berkowitz Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, Trax Gallery, Berkeley, CA Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1996 Tempe Arts Center, Arizona, Hiestand Galleries/Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
- 1995 Habitat/Shaw Gallery, Pontiac, Michigan
- Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1994 Garth Clark Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1993 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1992 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Pittsburgh
- 1991 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1990 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1989 Garth Clark Gallery, New York, Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York
- 1988 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1987 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1986 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- Esther Saks, Chicago
- 1985 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1984 Garth Clark Gallery, New York, The Morgan Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1983 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1980 Himawari Gallery, Miyazaki, Japan
Akio Takamori: Ceramic sculpture, by Akio Takamori, Garth Clark Gallery (2000)
Between Clouds of Memory Akio Takamori, a Mid-career Survey, by Akio Takamori, et al. Univ of Washington Press, Oct 30 2005
500 Figures in Clay: Ceramic Artists Celebrate the Human Form by Veronika Alice Gunter, Sterling Publishing, September 2004, ISBN 978-1-57990-547-7
Figure in Clay: Contemporary Sculpting Techniques by Master Artists, by Suzanne J. Tourtillott, Sterling Publishing, August 2005, ISBN 978-1-57990-611-5
-  Review of career retrospective show
-  Brief biography
-  AskArt page on Takamori
-  ArtNet page on Takamori
Transplanted and Transformed
Directions in the Journeys of Akio Takamori and Sergei Isupov
Article by Judith Schwartz — Ceramics Art and Perception No. 82 2010
We have high expectations of superstars, be they actors or artists, when they succeed at their craft they transfix and transform us all. We applaud their sensitivity, their insights, their skills. They cause us to think differently, feel more passionately – indeed, they change our very core perceptions. Happily, the exhibitions of Akio Takamori, Alice/Venus at the Barry Friedman Gallery (September – October, 2009) and Sergei Isupov, Androgyny (April – August, 2009) at the Mesa Art Center, are prime examples of two artists that superbly succeed at their craft.
These exhibitions, which featured figurative pieces, were viewed within spacious and prestigious venues that seemed to enhance their impact. While each artist has had a stellar career spanning years of prolific exposure, the works in these new installations were larger in scale, more complex in form and surface and far more evolved. Each artist has, in his own way, moved on from earlier themes to deal with deeper philosophical issues, with Takamori seeming to have become more relaxed and introspective and Isupov, more meticulous and introspective.
Their works deal with universal themes of maturation and the complexity of knowing oneself. Each artist strives for the expression of personal intent using a distinctly different style: Takamori, with loose billowy puffs of clay seeming to encapsulate air and adorned with soft brush strokes and incised fluid lines and Isupov, with larger-than-life busts that constitute grand canvases upon which are laid meticulously-drawn, painted and carved caricatures representing cross sections of humanity.
Both are transplanted artists, born in countries with rich cultural heritages, who have chosen to make careers in the US. In so doing, each has sought to find a means for integrating cultural diversity in a form that gains acceptance in his adopted land. Takamori and Isupov have not only been transplanted, overcoming the initial isolation associated with the learning of a new language, or the loss that proximity of family and friends brings, but they have used these obstacles to inform their work and to transform their perceptions and ours as well.
Alice/Venus is Takamori’s first solo exhibition at the Barry Friedman Gallery. Perhaps this new gallery, with its cavernous rooms, elegant light and airy space, enabled the artist to consider new possibilities. If so, his work has never looked more inspired.
The large primary viewing room enabled Takamori to place each them – Alice and Venus – in its own space. On the Alice side were seven large-scale figures with rotund Asian heads juxtaposed on bodies wearing western European costumes. Adolescent girls with Tang Dynasty hairstyles juxtaposed against Renaissance dresses that reference the Queen of Hears and Alice in the coming-of-age story of Alice in Wonderland.
On the Venus side of the gallery there were seven more works, with the juxtaposition of East and West again being made explicit. The Asian girl, now portrayed as Venus, are post-pubescent, standing nude or partially draped, towering over island mountains, as foamy clouds float by; the islands emerge from water reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints (a Buddhist word that means ‘sad world’). In fact, both the Alice and Venus faces war almost the same expression – one of sadness and longing with rosy cheeks dripping red underglaze down their faces and on to their necks and bodies. The eyes look away, seemingly disappointed and filled with melancholy as though trapped in some world that transcends time and place.
Takamori moves us from the familiar to the unfamiliar using contrasting scale and cultural identities. Alice is both a doll and a queen, a child trying to enter adulthood. Venus stands looming over a homeland, engulfing it but with her head in the clouds. This play of contrasts, the big with the small, light with shadows, nudity with elaborate dress – all add to the sense of metamorphosis, change and transformation. One can feel the hesitant emergence of adulthood and yet a longing for the past, a nostalgia for a distant home from which one has been displaced.
Perhaps Alice/Venus reflect Takamori’s mental state; juxtaposition of regality and humility, whimsy and solemnity, solidarity and unity – all things people must balance in their lives. Alice is not just a girl who is trying to fit into adulthood or an unknown Western culture but she is a girl who is trying to remain human while going through a transformation.
The Venus components were, by far, the most satisfying works in the show, particularly Venus in Clouds 1 and Venue + Island in Clouds 2. In these works, the clouds float by, enveloping Venus’ body, front, back and literally hovering around her. The white puffs act to fill voids between body and land mass but they do much more. They create a dreamy atmosphere that feels moist and windswept. By objectifying the clouds, Takamori graphically lures the viewer into a three-dimensional space and we drift with the wind into the seduction.
Much has been written about Takamori’s childhood, growing up on Kyushu, the southern most island of Japan and his subsequent journey to the Kansas City Art Institute and then his significant breakthrough at the European Keramik Work Center (EKWC) in ‘sHertogenbosch in the Netherlands. Readers who want in-depth details should see Between Clouds and Memory, edited by Peter Held, a catalogue published for Takamori’s mid-career survey exhibition in 2005 at Arizona State University. (1)
Sergei Isupov is a transplanted artist as well but, unlike Takamori, he obtained his formal academic artistic training before coming to the US, first at the Ukrainian State Art School in Kiev and then at the Art Institute of Tallinn in Estonia. Although born in the 1960s, after the years of the most severe Soviet repression, the training at these schools were not without party control. There was slim opportunity for artistic individuality and Isupov, bridling under such constraints, was able eventually to immigrate to the US in the early 1980s.
When we think about the rich history of Russian literature, classical music, dance and particularly the avant-garde movements of Constructivism and Futurism, we can begin to understand the energy and vigor driving Isupov to assimilate his heritage with the dynamism American had to offer. The result is a splendid unleashing of the human psyche. Like Takamori, one foot is securely planted within each culture, drawing on the best of the heritage to bring a fresh illumination and to appeal to an American audience.
Isupov’s recent relocation to a spacious studio in Massachusetts prompted a shift in form and content and when the opportunity to show at the Mesa Art Center presented itself, the catalyst was there to challenge the artist to move in new directions. As his studio grew so did his kiln and, with that, a technical shift from porcelain to stoneware. This material shift enabled Isupov to mentally streamline his previous complex tabletop forms into the grad elegant egg-shaped forms seen in the Androgyny series.
Where previous figuration relied on multiple protuberances enabling obsessive surface detail with fetish finishes that seduced the viewer, the new work became simpler but with a dynamism not show previously. These larger-than-life size portraits are caricatures, exaggerations of every man and every woman; bi-gender headshots.
Who are these people, what do they do, think and feel? After all, heads are what we typically see on TB and in the ubiquitous cars that pass us by. Isupov presents these heads as symbols of our time, isolated, secluded, solitary. They appear different and alone. There is an eeriness about them. Their scale is so large there is a seductive quality, forcing us to go deeper into the personalities of his chose subjects.
The exhibition at the Mesa Art Center, Isupov’s first solo museum setting, could not have shown the work in a better light, with its spacious gallery rooms and high ceilings. There were 20 sculptures all told, with drawings interspersed among them. Each sculpture was mounted on an over scaled pedestal so the eyes of the figures either looked down upon or confronted the viewer head on. As previously mentioned, although simpler in for, the surfaces are completely and meticulously nuances. He, in fact, uses a museum ploy of mirrors that are normally set to peer behind an object, but in this instance beneath, so the fully decorated under side of the sculptures can be viewed as if revealing a secret for us all to share.
We are faced with the task of peering into the souls of these works are those whose surfaces are tattoo-like, tenacious and meticulously carved and painted gestures. A History of Lovers is a prime example. The skin is pockmarked and painted a vivid matt blue while the ears, lips and eyebrows are glossy red. The eyes drip with male and female bodies suggesting that the mind’s eye is capable o f revealing more about relationships and ourselves. An icon-like face is painted where the third eye is capable of revealing more about relationships and ourselves. An icon-like face is painted where the third eye is thought to be and the back shows two figures swimming toward each other. The mirrored under side reveals more of the inner world narrative. Busker is handled in a similar fashion. Matt blue pockmarked skin and eyes dripping tears of figures and a drawing on the third eye. The shape of the head reveals another ethnicity, almost Buddha-like or Egyptian. Again, the back and underside continue the enigmatic dialogue that is symbolic; we can only let our imaginations fill in the voids.
In the catalogue essay, Sonya Bekkerman links this work to “ancient and indigenous art traditions where social status, class, religious orientation, ethnicity and internal states are communicated through tattooed skin”. (2)
Recent developments in ceramic sculpture have given lofty praise to what might be described as a ‘sloppy clay’ aesthetic. A heated debate has ensued about the merit of those who use clay in an unschooled fashion. Ken Johnson, for example, in a New York Times review of Ron Nagel’s work, described it as the difference between the “raw” and the “cooked” schools of working. By “raw”, Johnson points to the work of Peter Voulkos, Andrew Lord and Rebecca Warren whose loose handling of the material seemingly forfeits craftsmanship “in the interest of enhanced formal effect and conceptual hipness” versus the “cooked” or refined and painstaking detail as seen, for example, in the work of Ken Price and Kathy Butterly, who “uses extremely refined techniques to create works of idiosyncratic beauty and fantasy”. (3)
A half century ago, similar debates arose with words like “dirty and clean” (4), the “dirty” referring to the way Robert Arneson handled his scatological objects and the “clean” to Claus Oldenburg’s handling of similar objects. Glen Adamson has discussed similar issues but has extended the analogy to using objects such as the “figurine” and the “maquette” where the figurine is labeled “over refined” and the maquette “unfinished”. (5)
Amidst all of this discussion, it is comforting to see new work presented from two seasoned practitioners who convey an assured mastery of the material and who are able to coax and massage the medium into emotional and enlightened windows of meaning. Both Takamori and Isupov are very much part of the ‘cooked’ school: refined, finished, developed, elegant, polished and skilled.
There are infinite ways to handle the complexities of this difficult and intricate medium. Each artist has to find his way of conveying meaning and intent, a way appropriate and consistent with his idiosyncratic manner of delivery.
1. Peter Held, e. Between Clouds of MeoryL Akio Takamori, a Mid-Career Survey. Arizona: Arizona State University. 2005
2. Sonya Bekkerman. “Sergei Isupov Androgyny”, Mesa Art Center, 10 April -2 August, 2009. p6.
3. Ken Johnson. “Ron Nagel”, New York Times. 1 May, 2009.
4. Plagens, P. Sunshine Muse. New York: Praeger.. 1974. p89.
5. Glenn Adamson. “Making a Mess: Ceramic Sculpture Now:, Tenth Annual Dorothy Wilson Perkins Lecture, Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art at Alfred University, 20 November, 2008.
Judith S Schwartz is Professor, Department of Art and Art Professions at New York University.
All Sergei Isupov images are courtesy of the art and the Ferrin Gallery.
e: 9F� ;opw��� :Calibri;mso-ansi-language:EN’>Figure in Clay: Contemporary Sculpting Techniques by Master Artists, by Suzanne J. Tourtillott, Sterling Publishing, August 2005, ISBN 978-1-57990-611-5