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Okimono by Kazuo Yagi


Kazuo Yagi (Japan, 1918-1979) of Kyoto was the leading avant-garde ceramic artist in 20th-century Japan. He was a founder of the modernist Sodeisha ("crawling through mud") movement, which opposed the traditionalism of mainstream Japanese ceramic art. Yagi's work included sculptural objects which, radically, served no function as vessels. In 2004, Kazuo Yagi's work was an important part of the important traveling exhibition, "Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics", which was accompanied by an eponymous book that all lovers of ceramics should own, and which tells the fascinating story of Noguchi's artistic give-and-take with Japanese friends like Kazuo Yagi, Yagi's colleagues in the Sodeisha movement, as well as with the traditionalist "mingei" ceramists that Sodeisha placed itself in opposition to. Using ceramics to make pure sculpture was revolutionary. The idea of a ceramist being a sculptor who happened to use clay and glaze as his medium was no less of an innovation outside the boundaries of Japan. The California-based ceramic artists famously led in the late 1950s by Peter Voulkos are sometimes thought of as the first to liberate ceramic form from function, but their work actually came years after that of the Sodeisha ceramists. This okimono (objet d'art) by Kazuo Yagi is an enigmatic piece. It is unglazed, and made from clay containing grog -- coarse particles of already-fired clay. To make the piece, Yagi pressed the soft clay between two halves of a mold, and deliberately allowed the flash line and excess clay bulges that are an artifact of the molding process to remain conspicuously on the finished piece. (Such a reaction against perfection actually places Yagi closer to, as opposed to further away from, Japanese aesthetic tradition, which for centuries cultivated roughness and spontaneity.) The winglets on the bird were hand-formed separately, and pressed onto each side of the bird's body. Finally, the use of grog, and lack of glaze, gives the surface of the finished sculpture "tooth" and a distinctive, rough texture. The end result is a small sculpture with a quality that is at once humorously toy-like and mysteriously archeological. Signed with the artists mark (at the base of the bird's neck; see image 8), this piece also retains its original signed wooden box.


  • Creator
    Kazuo Yagi (Artist)
  • Of the Period
  • Place of origin
  • Condition
  • Dimensions

    H 5 in. x W 4.5 in. x D 4 in.

    H 12.7 cm x W 11.43 cm x D 10.16 cm

  • Seller location
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Reference number

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