Between Forms: The Terracotta Cosmos by Mokichi Otsuka
Ippodo Gallery is pleased to present terracotta works by Mokichi Otsuka (b. 1956), displayed from September 6 to 28, 2018.
Explorations of form take shape with two recurrent motifs—predominately women and cats. Female heads, busts and hands bear reference to the Greco-Roman tradition of seeking an idealized womanly figure in a three-dimensional world, and the terracotta medium to the history of pottery and its life-bearing properties. Under the tutelage of Italian sculptor Aldo Rontini in Faenza, Italy, Otsuka was encouraged to harness the power of ancient traditions through ceramic tiles. Following five years of illness, a chance encounter with the ancient Greek goddess Kore solidified his interest in the seemingly inexpressible vitality of humanity, and eternal fascination with Western heritage.
And yet, Otsuka’s work takes on a contemporary relevance in its homage to Eastern traditions, in that it looks inward. Particularly in the new cat works, sharp, long eyes bear reference at once to the hollowed and unattainable women of Modigliani paintings, Egyptian and Nepalese deities, and even the Noh masks of Japanese theater. Their ability to transcend art historical moments means that their fluidity succeeds in achieving its distance, personifying the value of life in Western antiquity while also encapsulating the unknowable inner life prevalent in Buddhist teachings.
As they bridge the worlds of Greco-Roman and Japanese art, Otsuka’s terracotta wares are unique. Even as the concepts endure, the artist deviates from prehistoric Japanese ceramic aesthetics and their contemporary experimentational counterparts. Pieces are fired at 1060° Celsius (1940° Fahrenheit), in an entirely unique process he continues to innovate. Most recently, he has developed a deeply symbolic and significant perforation technique.
What began as red clay inlaid with white dots has evolved to perforations in white clay. Naturally occurring cracks are left as part of the work to reveal its soul. These holes are a window to the cosmos, undulating in patterns and creating a passage between worlds. They symbolize nature’s energy, encapsulating the inexpressible theories crescendoing in each work of art.
Otsuka has found solace in the expression of mind and body through his works. He pursued extensive education to expand his universe, first in Japanese painting at the graduate school of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (present- day Tokyo University of Art) in 1981, and later at the Istituto Statale d’Arte per la Ceramica Gaetano, in Faenza, Italy in 1994, where he has continued to exhibit annually since 2006.
As such, Otsuka’s unique fusion of cultural influences has been exhibited namely in the regions where he has drawn inspiration: his home country of Japan, and his beloved Italy. He has held solo exhibitions throughout Japan and Italy, as well as at the 4th Ceramics Biennale in Cairo, Egypt, in 1998. Ippodo is happy to announce that this is the first Mokichi Otsuka show in New York City.
This exhibition also marks a transformation in the ethos of Ippodo Gallery. The message of the gallery has always been in sync with the natural world, but increasing diplomatic engagements are solidifying its place in the canon of cross-culturalism. May this exhibition be a continue culmination of exchange of Japanese culture with the Western world.