Remarkably, despite the popularity of modern Japanese ceramics in the West, Tomimoto Kenkichi is a relative unknown. In Japan, however, he is revered as the father of the field. Without him, Japan would not be in the preeminent position as champion of contemporary of clay art that it is today. This publication and exhibition, Vessel Explored, Vessel Transformed: Tomimoto Kenkichi and his Enduring Legacy, the first of its type outside of Japan, focuses on this remarkable artist and teacher. He was the most significant figure in the world of twentieth-century Japanese ceramics and his impact continues through his gifted and inspired former pupils and their talented students, many of whom are now professors of ceramics. Together they have transformed and surpassed the classical standard for functional ceramic excellence—devotion to the ancient Chinese traditions or allegiance to the late16th-century Momoyama tea wares–– and brought to their oeuvres a new, contemporary, and highly influential sensibility. Furthermore, this caused the ancient system of familial kilns and stylistic heritages to give way to university relationships that spawned artistic families of their own.
So it is with tremendous pride that Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. with the invaluable assistance of Japan’s leading modern ceramic dealer, Shibuya Kurodatoen Co., Ltd. present this groundbreaking exhibition and accompanying publication. We have been delighted to enlist the services of esteemed experts in this area, Kida Tatsuya, Professor at Musashino Art University and author of numerous articles on this topic, Meghen Jones, Assistant Professor of Art History at Alfred University who wrote her dissertation on Tomimoto, and emerging scholar Trevors Menders. These essays are complemented by reminiscences by several of Tomimoto’s former pupils and pioneers in their own right, Yanagihara Mutsuo, Matsuda Yuriko, and Nagasawa Setsuko. Then from the third generation of artists, Kondo Takahiro writes of the profound effect that the words and wisdom of Tomimoto has had on him. We have been extremely fortunate to have the enthusiastic support and assistant of numerous other former pupils and their former students through individual recollections and the creation of new work conceived specifically for this exhibition.
“The legacy Tomimoto left his students, through his many texts and instructions at university, is of utmost importance to the history of Japanese art and deserves a separate study. The discourse of modern Japanese ceramics was profoundly affected by Tomimoto’s teachings.” (Meghen Jones, Dissertation, 2014, p. 287)