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ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center Explores Culture, Memories and Identity with exhibition of internationally renowned artist, Akio Takamori

Dance, 2001
Stoneware with underglaze
Collection of Marilyn and James Jonassen
Photo credit: Robert Vinnedge

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

June 22, 2005

Tempe, Ariz - The Arizona State University Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center (CRC) presents a major mid-career exhibition on the innovative ceramic art work of Akio Takamori. Born and raised in Japan, Takamori has spent the majority of his artistic career in the U.S. and is regarded as one of the most inventive and expressive contemporary artists to emerge from American ceramics.

At the ASU Art Museum Sept. 9, 2005 – Jan. 16, 2006, Between Clouds of Memory: Akio Takamori, A Mid-Career Survey is the first in-depth analysis of Takamori’s ceramic and graphic art work created between 1976 and the present. This hallmark exhibition of 42 ceramic sculptures and nine prints is drawn from the artist’s personal holding, the CRC permanent collection and private and public collections nationwide, shows the artist’s ongoing search for personal and cultural identity in an era of increasingly global influences and contradictions.

Takamori, currently living and working in Seattle, was born in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan in 1950. Drawing on his childhood in postwar Japan, Takamori’s figurative work is often autobiographical and includes villagers, school children, shopkeepers and family members that have been modeled from memory.

Takamori’s signature “envelope” vessel constitutes a groundbreaking development in American ceramics and coincides with a “golden era” in the 1980s, when American ceramic artists let loose a torrent of creative energy, with many of the major artists coming out of Takamori’s alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute, under the tutelage of Ken Ferguson.

Takamori’s work has always remained figurative, and expressive of human emotion and sensuality. In recent years the dramatic sexual imagery of his vessel forms of the 1980’s and early 90’s have evolved into quieter, more contemplative sculptural works that reflect Takamori’s ever-changing relationship to clay.

Takamori's figures are masterfully executed in porcelain with a deft hand for decoration, a marriage of western and non-western influences. His use of black lines reminiscent of Japanese wood block prints coupled with an intense expression of the human form have made Takamori one of the most exciting and imaginative artists to emerge from American ceramics.

“Through each of his creative evolutions, Takamori has challenged our interpretation of his work,” said Peter Held, curator of the Ceramics Research Center. “Assessing Takamori’s remarkable career, we witness an unfurling worldview, an artist flexing time and space to reconstitute an identity caught between clouds of memory.”

To coincide with the exhibition, the CRC is publishing a book entitled, “Between Clouds of Memory” to present multiple perspectives on the Takamori’s career. The richly illustrated book will include commentary from Garth Clark, noted historian and art dealer, who reflects on his relationship with the artist; Peter Held, exhibition curator, Edward Lebow, award-winning author; and Toyojiro Hida, a prominent Japanese curator, writer and critic. The University of Washington Press, Seattle and the ASU Art Museum store will distribute the book, which will retail for $35 and be available in the fall.

Traveling Exhibition:

Between Clouds of Memory will travel to three additional venues: Marylhurst University’s Art Gym, to coincide with the 40th Annual National Conference of the National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), Portland, Oregon, March 7 - May 3, 2006; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington, June 10-October 2, 2006; and the Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin, October 29, 2006 – March 18, 2007.

Beyond Clouds and Memory Related Events:

  • October 7, 7 p.m., artist lecture, Neeb Hall, ASU campus
  • October 8, 7-9 p.m., members & invited guest opening reception, ASU Art Museum
  • October 8, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., artist demonstration, Mesa Art Center, fee charged

Akio Takamori: Between Clouds of Memory is one of three contemporary Asian art exhibitions opening at the ASU Art Museum in the fall of 2005. Others include, Regeneration: Contemporary Art from China and the U.S., Sept. 24-Dec. 24; and Stella Lai: Let’s Stop Pretending, Sept. 1 – Nov. 19, the first solo museum exhibition of paintings and installations by the 30-year-old emerging artist born in China and living in San Francisco.

The ASU Art Museum is a division of The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts. The museum’s Ceramics Research Center is located on the northeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. Hours are 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesdays (during the academic year), and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, members of the public should call the ASU Art Museum at (480) 965-2787.

The ASU Art Museum was named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by “Art in America.” It is a division of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. To learn more about the museum, visit

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay