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The Art Institute of Chicago

Tanaka Yu 田中悠. Bag Work (フクロモノ) (detail), 2018; Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection of Contemporary Japanese Ceramics

Radical Clay: Contemporary Women Artists from Japan

December 16, 2023 – June 3, 2024

This exhibition celebrates 36 contemporary ceramic artists—all women—through 40 stunning, virtuosic pieces. Since World War II, women have made influential contributions to the ceramics field in Japan that have not been adequately recognized. Radical Clay focuses on the explosion of innovative and technically ambitious compositions by such artists since 1970—a body of work which they developed in parallel with, but often separately from, traditional, male-dominated Japanese practice and its countermovements.

All of the selected pieces are from the exemplary collection of Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz, who are thrilled to bring these artists to global attention. The exhibition is also accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with essays by Katz, Joe Earle, and Hollis Goodall.

To learn more, click here.

Related Event In-Person Event

Conversation: Hosono Hitomi and Yamaguchi Mio on Radical Clay
Saturday, March 23, 2024, 2:00–3:00pm

Join curator Janice Katz and catalogue editor Joe Earle for a conversation on Radical Clay: Contemporary Women Artists from Japan with ceramicists Hosono Hitomi and Yamaguchi Mio. Hosono Hitomi (b.1978) has built a career crafting complex botanical sculptures that recreate dense foliage in molded porcelain. Yamaguchi Mio (b.1992) mimics nature’s repetitions, pleating and folding clay to evoke a world that is almost aquatic. Both artists present striking perspectives on ceramics, globally and in Japan. Hear about their creative processes, techniques, inspiration, and thoughts on the current and future state of clay art in this exciting conversation.

Learn more and register here.


Suzuki Harunobu, Searching for Fireflies, 1768, Clarence Buckingham Collection

By the Light of the Moon: Nighttime in Japanese Prints

January 20 – April 14, 2024

Whether as a darkened backdrop for action-packed figural scenes or as a dominant presence over unpeopled landscapes, Japanese printmakers have represented nighttime in various ways over the past several centuries.

In the earliest prints shown in this exhibition, figures are the main focus of each image and darkness simply sets the stage. This is true for the mid- to late 18th-century works of Okumura Masanobu and Suzuki Harunobu, where a solid curtain of black appears behind each dramatic scene. By the 19th century, however, landscape prints were often dominated by the night sky—with or without a moon—and townspeople in urban settings or travelers in rural scenes were less prominent.

Over time, some artists became more adventurous and began to depict different seasons and moments during the day. In the prints by Utagawa Hiroshige featured here, he has set each scene at a specific phase of the night, such as twilight or midnight, indicated by the hues of the sky. By the 20th century, artists could express the various moods associated with nighttime by the way they represented how shadows were cast, the brightness of stars, the reflections of the moon on vast oceans or small puddles, and the isolation of lonely travelers. In particular, Kawase Hasui cleverly incorporated small amounts of light into otherwise dark scenes to produce some of the most haunting images in the history of Japanese prints.

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