On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, he attends Nakayoshi Fukushikai, a social welfare facility in Japan’s Shiga prefecture, where he spends the morning working at the in-house bakery, making bread. He spends the afternoons working with clay. Sawada first attended this facility, one of many similar institutions in Japan designed to support people with intellectual disabilities, when he was eighteen years old, shortly after he was diagnosed with autism. In the two decades since, his ceramic beasts – sometimes ghoulish, always fantastical, and deeply redolent of ancient mythologies still coursing through Japanese culture – have attracted the attention of critics and connoisseurs worldwide, notably after a presentation at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
Beginning February 24th, Venus Over Manhattan will present the first United States solo exhibition of Shinichi Sawada’s ceramic sculptures. The showcase of thirty works follows a recent museum solo exhibition that traveled in fall 2020 from the Museum Lothar Fischer, in Neumarkt, Germany, to the George Kolbe Museum, Berlin. On view through late March, the Venus exhibition has been organized in collaboration with Jennifer Lauren Gallery, Manchester, UK, who has worked with the artist for many years.
In conjunction with its presentation, Venus will publish a generously illustrated catalogue featuring new and recent writing on Sawada’s art.
The Nakayoshi Fukushikai facility where Shinichi Sawada practices his art, exists within Japan’s expansive social welfare system and seeks to offer those it serves with the “most widely varied instruction possible, without pressure and excessively rigid rules, supported by volunteers in the fields of agriculture, education, medicine, psychology, literature, and art.” When Sawada, who is mostly non-verbal, endeavored to pursue ceramics, he found such support in a team that was prepared to help him, including a ceramics facilitator named Mr. Masaharu Iketani, who has worked with Sawada from day one.