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First exhibition in the U.S. of Japanese master Sugimoto Sadamitsu ceramics opens at Frank Lloyd Gallery
Sugimoto Sadamitsu, Iga, Jar, stoneware, 13 x 9 ½ x 9 ¾ inches. Photo: Courtesy Frank Lloyd Gallery.

SANTA MONICA, CA.- The ceramic work of Japanese master Sugimoto Sadamitsu (b. 1935) is the subject of an exhibition at the Frank Lloyd Gallery, opening February 18. The first comprehensive exhibition in the United States of this renowned artist's work, it is comprised of sixteen masterworks in the Shigaraki and Iga tradition of high-fired stoneware made for the Tea Ceremony.

Sugimoto-sensei is regarded as the greatest living master of Iga and Shigaraki, and he has received many honors in Japan. His work was highlighted in a 1989 exhibition that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of Sen no Rikyu, the legendary early master of the Tea Ceremony. That same year, the famed scholar of Tea Ceremony ceramics, Hayashiya Seizo, selected Sugimoto-sensei's work to represent Shigaraki and Iga masterpieces of the Momoyama period that are registered as National Treasures, for use in the movie made in that year titled Rikyu, a well-received treatment of the life of this master of the Tea Ceremony.

The sixteen ceramics in this exhibition range from a superb Iga Mizusashi (large lidded vessel essential to the Tea Ceremony) to flower vessels of widely varying shapes, sizes, and colors, from "Black Shigaraki" to "Glassy Green Iga." There are five works in the Shigaraki tradition, in which the pieces are fired for ten days at very high temperatures, and eleven works in the Iga tradition, in which pieces are fired for up to seven times for ten days. Each firing produces spectacular "natural glaze" effects. In both Shigaraki and Iga firings, the pieces go into the kiln completely unglazed: all the fabulous surface variations (seen here in two photographs) are solely the result of wood ash swirling around in the kiln and falling on the pieces, producing unpredictable and riveting effects achieved in no other Japanese ceramic tradition to such a degree.

On display in the gallery are several paintings by Sugimoto-sensei of Zen subjects, as well as a striking calligraphy by his Zen Master, Tachibana Taiki Roshi of Daitokuji, who passed away in 2005 at the venerable age of 107.

Sugimoto-sensei's work is widely held in Japanese public and private museums. In this country it is represented in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pavilion for Japanese Art.

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