'Masaomi Yasunaga: Looking Afar / 遠くを見る' reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail
4 October 2022
Although Yasunaga is working within (and against) a lineage of ceramics, his objects frustrate “ceramics” as a neat classification. Using traditional hand-building and coiling processes, the artist sculpts his vessels from a special glaze with reduced water content, which enables him to deemphasize and even bypass the use of clay. What typically sheathes, decorates, strengthens, and seals a vessel becomes its very basis as slip and kaolin act as accents, a radical inversion that offers up abstract carapaces in lieu of functional pottery. Yasunaga prepares each fragile glazed construction for firing by burying it under protective layers of sand and kaolin, with which it will organically fuse in the kiln. After ceding a measure of control to nature in the firing stage, Yasunaga unearths the object—enacting a ritual performance of interment, transformation (transubstantiation?), and exhumation—and continues to refine its surface.
Several lightly pitted and fissured vessels in Looking Afar are incised with abstract patterns of steadily loping lines or allover circles, which inject flashes of blue and green into a relatively restrained palette of neutrals and pastels. Most of the objects, particularly when Yasunaga is building on a large scale, are characterized by wildly bumpy and irregular surfaces embedded—with varying degrees of serendipity and intentionality—with the feldspars, granite, copper, and kaolin that regularly feature in his process. These craggy exteriors and their less readily visible interior counterparts conjure up the dazed mythos of heavily barnacled shipwrecks and deteriorating archaeological sites, jumbled places where human time scales push up against the geological. Gerund-heavy titles evoking geological transformation—“crumbling,” “melting,” “regenerating”—allude to metamorphosis in the kiln as they gesture to more gradual material and ontological unfoldings, suggesting that Yasunaga’s curious vessels will remain unresolved, unfixed, unknown.
Read the full review by Cassie Packard in The Brooklyn Rail here.
Masaomi Yasunaga: Looking Afar / 遠くを見る is on view through 29 October.