Yagi Kazuo

1918 - 1979





Cylindrical vase with stamped patterning, ca. 1960
Stoneware with white glaze
9 3/4 x 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.
Inv# 7176
$ 7,850

Artist Bio

Born in Kyoto on July 4, 1918, Yagi Kazuō was the eldest son of ceramist Yagi Issō (1894-73), who excelled at works inspired by Chinese Song Dynasty ceramics. After graduating from the sculpture section of the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, Yagi Kazuō became a student at the Ceramic Research Institute in Kyoto and in 1946 took part in establishing the Young Pottery-makers’ Collective, which was disbanded in mid-1948. Later that year, he co-founded the avant-garde group Sōdeisha as a vehicle for expanding the expressive possibilities of clay.

Yagi focused on the creation of “objets” — neither pure sculpture nor simply vessels. In 1954 at the Form Gallery, Tokyo, he exhibited his now iconic work, “Mr. Zamsa’s Walk,” which marked his radical repositioning of the potter’s wheel as a mere mechanical tool instead of the determining factor in the forming process. However, like his Sōdeisha colleagues, Yagi began with utilitarian vessels inspired by modern Western art. In 1962, together with Yamada Hikaru, he established Mon Kōbō (“Corner Workshop”), in which Yamada was responsible for the functional forms and Yagi, for the surface patterning. Yagi was quite comfortable producing sculptural forms and utilitarian vessels simultaneously and respected them equally. Yagi was the first artist to incorporate smoke-blackened ware into the modern ceramic vocabulary, starting in 1957. This manner of treating the surface allowed the original sharpness of the sculpted clay form to remain visible; moreover, it remained unassociated with any prior Japanese ceramic tradition.

With broad interests in poetry, music and photography, and known for his sarcastic wit and intellect, Yagi inevitably became Sōdeisha’s spokesman. Over time, as its central figure, Yagi also assumed the mantle of standard-bearer for contemporary ceramic art in postwar Japan.


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1918 Born in Kyoto
1937 Graduated in sculpture from Kyoto Municipal College of Art and Craft
1938 Enlisted in army
1940 Discharged from army due to tuberculosis
1943 Became an art teacher at the Chūgū Elementary School in Kobe then at the Second Ritsumeikan Junior High School
1946 Resigned from teaching
Participated in organizing the Young Pottery-makers’ Collective
1948 Co-founded Sōdeisha
1950 Works included in exhibition at and acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York
1952 Co-organized Gendai Bijutsu Kondankai (Genbi) (Contemporary Art Discussion Group)
1957 Became an adjunct instructor in sculpture, Kyoto Municipal College of Fine Arts
1965 Works included in the traveling exhibition, New Japanese Painting and Sculpture that toured the US, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York
1971 Appointed professor at Kyoto Municipal College of Fine Arts
Designed the front of the Olympic medals for the Sapporo Winter Olympics
1973 Sent to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran as the leader of the Silk Road Research Group of the Kyoto Municipal College of Fine Arts
1976 Built a kiln in Uji, Kyoto
1978 Exhibited FIAC at Grand Palais, Paris
1979 Died at age 61


Awards:

1948 Kyoto Mayor’s Prize at Kyōten exhibition
1959 Grand Prize, Second International Congress of Contemporary Ceramics, Ostend Belgium
1962 Gold Medal, Third International Academy of Ceramic exhibition, Prague, Czechoslovakia
1973 Japan Ceramics Society Award

Solo Exhibitions:

1954 Kyoto-fu Gallery
Form Gallery, Tokyo
1955 Umeda Gallery, Osaka
1956 Takemiya Gallery, Tokyo
1963 Fujikawa Gallery, Osaka
1964 Beni Gallery, Kyoto
Ginza Matsuya Art Gallery, Tokyo
1966 Yamada Gallery, Kyoto
Feigen/Palmer Gallery, Los Angeles
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
1969 Ichibankan Gallery, Tokyo
Shinjuku Isetan Gallery, Tokyo
1971 Tenmaya Art Gallery, Okayama
1972 Isetan Gallery, Tokyo (also in 1977)
1974 3D Iteza Gallery, Kyoto
1975 Masudaya Gallery, Tokyo
Heian Gallery, Kyoto
1977 Kasahara Gallery, Osaka
1978 Kazuo Yagi – 60th Anniversary of his Birth, Isetan, Tokyo
Yagi Kazuo Ceramic Sculptures (Haiku series), Kasahara Gallery, Osaka exhibit in FIAC Grand Palais, Paris
1981 Yagi Kazuo, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo sponsored by Nihon
Keizai Shimbun
2004-05 Yagi Kazuo ten (Yagi Kazuo - a Retrospective), National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art; Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum; Tokyo Metropolitan Teian Art Museum; Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu


Group Exhibitions:

1939 First Japan Ceramic Sculpture Association Exhibition
1941 Sixth Rekitei Art Association Exhibition
1942 Seventh and Eighth Rekitei Art Association Exhibitions
1949 Two-person exhibition — Yagi Issō and Yagi Kazuō, Asahi Gallery, Kyoto
1947 Young Pottery-makers’ Collective Exhibition, Asahi Gallery, Kyoto
1948 First Sōdeisha Exhibition, Takashimaya, Osaka
1950 Museum of Modern Art, New York
Contemporary Japanese Ceramics Exhibition, Musée Cernuschi, Paris
1951 Contemporary Japanese Ceramics Exhibition, Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza
1954 Genbi Exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
1955 Sōdeisha Shōhin Exhibition, Kyoto Gallery
1957 Milan Triennale, International Ceramic Exhibition, Italy
1959 Contemporary Japanese Ceramics, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
1960 Tsudaka Kazuichi, Yagi Kazuo Two-person exhibition, Nakanoshima Gallery, Osaka
1961 Kyoto-Paris Kōkan Tōgei exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, traveled to Musée national de céramique Sèvres, France
1963 Survey of Contemporary Japan Ceramics, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Hands and Machines on Crafts, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
1964 International Ceramics, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (also traveled to Kurume, Kyoto and Nagoya)
1965 New Japanese Painting and Sculpture, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
1966 The First Japan Art Festival, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco
Tsuji Shindō, Yagi Kazuo, Ichibankan Gallery, Tokyo
1968 The New Generation of Contemporary Ceramics, National Museums of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kyoto
1970 Contemporary Ceramics: Europe and Japan, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
1971 Contemporary Ceramics: the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Japan, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo
1976 Japanese Ceramic Masterpieces, Rostock and Dresden, East Germany
1977 Japanese Contemporary Masterpieces, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Celebrating Thirty Years of Sōdeisha Exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
1993-94 Modern Japanese Ceramics in American Collections, Japan Society, New York;
New Orleans Museum of Art; Honolulu Academy of Art
2003 Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics, a Close Embrace of the Earth, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Japan Society, New York; National Japanese American Museum, Los Angeles, California.
2011 Birds of Dawn: Pioneers of Japan’s Sōdeisha Movement, Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd., NY
2014 Japan in Black and White: Ink and Clay, Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd., NY

Selected Public Collections:

Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum
Aizawa Art Museum, Niigata
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
Ikenobo Society of Floral Art, Tokyo
Kyoto Municipal College of Fine Arts
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan
Mie Prefectural Art Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN
Musée Tomo, Tokyo
Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza
Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura and Hayama
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu
National Museum of Art, Osaka
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art
Rockefeller Foundation
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Scripps College
Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shiga (Shigaraki Tōgei no Mori)
Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo
Takamatsu City Art Museum, Kagawa
Tokoname City Board of Education, Aichi
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

References:

Cort, Louise Allison and Bert Winther-Tamaki. Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics: A
Close Embrace of the Earth, Washington D.C.: The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in association with University of California Press, 2003.

Inui, Ō. “Yagi Kazuo, Suzuki Osamu, Kamoda Shōji,” Gendai no tōgei (Contemporary Ceramics),
Vol. 12: Tokyo: Kodansha, 1975.

Kimura S. and others, eds. Yagi Kazuo sakuhinshū (Yagi Kazuo - A Retrospective of His Work),
Tokyo: Kodansha, 1980.

Kimura S. and Uchiyama, T. Yagi Kazuo ten (Kazuo Yagi Exhibition), Kyoto and Tokyo: The
National Museums of Modern Art with Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 1981.

Mirviss, Joan B., with Glenn Adamson Joe Earle, and Rupert Faulkner, “Birds of Dawn: Pioneers of Japan’s Sodeisha Movement,” 2011.

Schwendener, Martha. "Doors That Open to the Art of a Continent." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. .

Uchiyama T. and Matsubara R. and others, eds. Yagi Kazuo ten (Yagi Kazuo – A Retrospective),
Kyoto: The National Museum of Modern Art with Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 2004.

Exhibition Catalogue, Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century (Boston, MA: Museum of Fine Arts, 2005), pp. 24-25.

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