Onishi Gallery is very pleased to host the first solo exhibition in the United States for Itō Sekisui V, the 76-year old master Japanese ceramist. When I met Itō for the first time in 2015, I remember how his eyes shined passionately with the challenge of a new project—this solo exhibition. Itō’s artwork is recognized by world-class art institutions including the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, but as Itō’s first solo exhibition in the United States, this show marks a defining moment in his international career.
Itō Sekisui V is a 14th generation ceramic potter, recognized in 2003 by the government of Japan as a “Living National Treasure” for his work in mumyōi. Mumyōi is a reddish brown clay extracted from the gold mines native to Sado Island in Niigata prefecture, where Itō was born. Itō spent years experimenting with mumyōi to create his signature aesthetic—black on red. This unique material and visual aesthetic are highlighted by Itō’s mastery of neriage, a type of earthen ware characterized by delicate patterns created through the layering and patching together of different reddish brown-toned clays. To bring out the vibrancy of the red, Itō does not apply glaze, but rather, uses different flame streams inside a wood-fired kiln—a rare firing technique called yōhen. The areas on his pots that are touched directly by the flames create a black hue. As a result, Itō’s mumyōi ware are decorated with colorful floral, mosaic, striped, and gradated patterns that mimic painted pottery. Itō’s lifelong ceramic experience and his creative ingenuity within traditional methods of mumyōi production, single him out as a visionary ceramist and leading artist in Japan.
Itō Sekisui V has said that the artist’s creative calling is to “bring forth what has never existed, something new and attractive.” Through this landmark exhibition of his work, Itō brings forth his unmatched skill and unique talent to present new and stunning pieces of art. Itō has been the recipient of many prestigious awards in the past, including the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2005, and in 2011, the Order of the Rising Sun - Gold Rays with Rosette from the Emperor of Japan. With this solo American debut, we do not doubt he will continue to be honored for his contributions to the history and growing tradition of Japanese ceramic arts in the United States.