TOM SACHS: Chawan
April 15 - May 13, 2023
APRIL 15, TOKYO, JAPAN - Tom Sachs: Chawan presents new ceramics and sculptures at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo. Sachs has immersed himself in the practice and study of ceramics, including daily ceramics practice and a two-year course of intensive ceramics study with master JJ PEET in 2012. Since then, hand-forming chawans has been part of his daily ritual. He learned to use various ceramic types, including porcelain and stoneware, and multiple firing techniques.
Sach’s formal archetype is the work of Raku Kichizaemon, a Korean potter, who was abducted by Hideyoshi to come and revolutionize ceramics in Japan in the 16th century. The legend of Raku was shrouded in mystery, but some understand him to be a simple roof tile maker, who, when instructed by his tea master, Sen no Rikyū, produced shockingly simple unadorned tea bowls. Sachs even flew to Japan solely to examine “Kanokomadara”—a 17th century black Raku-ware chawan in the Tokyo National Museum that is considered a national treasure.
Many of Sachs’ chawans have suffered disasters from shattering both in the kiln and from use. This exhibition displays works with traditional kintsugi repair, executed in collaboration with Gen Saratani, but others are repaired by carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy resin.
While Sachs follows the traditional technique of hand-shaping and building his porcelain chawans, he is presenting them as sculptures on plywood pedestals inspired by Brancusi, being presented from the walls on Sach’s signature S.M.U.T.* trays, and on sculptural bases made of sonotube and cardboard. Two major pieces from the show pay homage to Nam June Paik and Sachs’ own ongoing video practice. In one, the artist has repurposed a television set from his childhood in the 1970s USA, placing a new chawan inside of the television; the sculpture is lit by turning the television set on and off. As a counter, Sachs has placed a chawan inside of a cardboard box. A video camera inside of the box displays an image onto a screen outside of the box, providing a translated view of the chawan inside.
In addition to the subversive ways that Sachs is displaying the objects, he has not simply imitated these ancient processes, but he has applied his own signature bricolage methods to the art of porcelain, while utilizing the traditional format of hand-shaping objects, rather than wheel throwing. Sachs says, “I could never make anything as perfect as an iPhone, but Apple could never make anything as perfectly flawed as my tea bowls.” These tea bowls are all hand formed pinch pots, never using the wheel, or as Sachs refers to it derogatorily, “the lathe”. Sachs believes the spinning process too closely resembles too much the 1s and 0s of the digital world and removes humanity from the experience of making.
*Sachs Modularized Utility Tray