Ito’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 Ito’s first solo exhibition in the United States, this show marks a defining moment in his international career.
Ito 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 Ito was born. Ito spent years experimenting with mumyōi to create his signature aesthetic—black on red. This unique material and visual aesthetic are highlighted by Ito’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, Ito 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, Ito’s mumyōi ware are decorated with colorful floral, mosaic, striped, and gradated patterns that mimic painted pottery. Ito’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.
Ito 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, Ito brings forth his unmatched skill and unique talent to present new and stunning pieces of art. Ito 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.