A new exhibition of contemporary Japanese ceramics will be on view at the Cantor Arts Center through May 28.
"Shaped With a Passion: The Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Collection of Japanese Ceramics from the 1970s" features some 120 tea bowls, sake cups, vases, plates, incense containers, sculptures and glaze samples created by leading potters at kiln sites throughout Japan.
The Cantor Center is the first of 12 venues that will show the collection during the next three years. It highlights stonewares that reflect the tastes of masters of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Louise Allison Cort, curator for ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, will give an illustrated talk, "Portrait of a Moment: Japanese Ceramics from 1972-1973 in the Weyerhaeuser Collection," at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Cantor Arts Center Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the center also will launch a studio clay program for children and adults. Works created by children will be on display at Macy's in Stanford Shopping Center during the course of the exhibition, thanks to a new partnership with Macy's West. For more information about the studio clay program, call Patience Young at (650) 725-6788.
The late Carl Weyerhaeuser, who developed an interest in Japanese art during visits to Japan in 1966 and 1970, began to collect ceramics with the help of Cort and Samuel Morse, a professor of fine arts at Amherst College who curated the current exhibition. Weyerhaeuser and Morse purchased more than 300 pieces from 63 artists on a 1972 collecting trip, and Cort and Morse bought additional pieces the following year.
Because Weyerhaeuser preferred the rough clay of stoneware pieces and non-traditional forms of ceramics, there are few examples of refined white porcelain in his collection.
Writing about the 1972 collecting trip in the catalog that accompanies the new exhibition, Morse recalls that he and Weyerhaeuser got lost in the hills north of Tajimi city, site of the modern kilns that produce Mino wares Yellow Sato, Black Sato, Shino and Oribe.
"While looking for a place to ask directions, we happened on the Yasaka kiln of Kato Juemon and his son Jippo," Morse writes. "Juemon insisted on serving us tea in his newly constructed tea hut, stating his belief that in order for a potter to produce good tea wares, he must practice the tea ceremony as well.
"Carl drank from a Yellow Set bowl with a splash of copper green pigment by Kato, a work that the potter described as having gotten better with age."
Weyerhaeuser, Morse adds, "was charmed with such an attitude" and bought several works, including the bowl in which he had been served tea.
In her catalog essay, Cort notes that the pottery villages Weyerhaeuser visited in 1972, before local governments had "transformed their sleepy communities into tourist-friendly environments," still preserved the apprenticeship systems and technologies that had flourished in the 17th century. His collection, she adds, "misses some of the famous names of that day . . . while incorporating fine potters who have never become famous."
"Against the present-day reality of ceramics production in Japan, where potters market themselves as personae and pottery towns market themselves as tourist experiences (with coffee shops shaped like climbing kilns), the era represented in Carl's collection seems like a quiet dream of unselfconsciousness," Cort writes. "Above all, Carl Weyerhaeuser's collection preserves a moment when Japanese potters, for the most part, were still free to be themselves. That, to me, is the collection's most precious meaning."
For directions to the Cantor Center and hours of docent tours, call (650) 723-4177 or visit the website at www.stanford.edu/dept/ccva. SR