Blum & Poe is pleased to present Shigaraki-based artist Yuji Ueda’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Frozen in the very midst of their own formation, Ueda’s ceramic vessels capture a vibrant kinetic energy—finished in electrifying colors and posed as though they might rupture. Sandy layers of ceramic flake and curl to reveal entirely different clay bodies emanating from their crevices, as if these works were the physical embodiment of the process of ceramic-making itself. Large peeling vessels, molting orbs, and dripping ceramic-bronzes come together to create a futuristic object landscape that exemplifies the artist’s recent explorations within the ceramic medium.
The artist’s glazes flow off the vessels, cascading out toward the viewer or wilting toward the ground. To achieve this explosive effect, Ueda prepares layer-upon-layer of clay and different glazes, as though building the tiers of a cake. Ueda’s clay for these forms is sourced from his native Shigaraki or its neighbor Iga. The soil from these areas, one of the oldest pottery-producing regions in Japan, typically contains feldspar: an abundant rock-forming mineral that melts and swells during the firing process. Ueda will also add feldspar to natural clay or glazing to create his desired effect.
Ueda’s round and off-kilter ceramic vessels are made through a casting process that utilizes a plaster mold. This method, which produces these recurrent warped-orb shapes, innovates on the slightly askew configurations of traditional Shigaraki wares, which were celebrated for their beautiful imperfections. Since the late 1300s, Shigaraki pottery has been popular for use during tea ceremonies among tea masters and cultural tastemakers. These globular vessels are comprised of three different kinds of clay, causing them to molt and crack, ultimately hyperbolizing the visual language of poetic flaws found in the history of Shigaraki ceramics.
Ueda creates his nuanced pink pigmentation—visible in the vessels placed upon the sizable wooden stump—by mixing red clay rich in iron with different metal pigments like copper and manganese. White glaze is painted on top of this base. A subtle change in the proportion or combination of these metallic pigments shift the resulting pattern and how the colors express themselves. Ueda has long experimented with this process, honing and manipulating it to his advantage in each unique work.
Ueda’s forms are seemingly expressive, but retain technical and historical significance. The unique abstractions that the artist constructs from clay build upon the rich history of Shigaraki vessels and take this tradition to its natural conclusion with their experimental forms and explosive and dynamic glazes. These works give off the illusion of bubbling outwards or collapsing inwards, emphasizing the beauty in that which is flawed.
Yuji Ueda (b. 1975, Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture, Japan) comes from a family of award-winning tea farmers in the Shiga Prefecture town of Shigaraki. His work was presented in a two-part group exhibition curated by Takashi Murakami at Blum & Poe Los Angeles and New York in 2015.