Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
I attended a slide lecture by Akio Takamori at the Austin Museum of Art a couple of weeks ago, and it was really inspiring. The lecture was part of Takamori's residency at the museum's Laguna Gloria Art School--a new program for them. I also sat in on his workshop on Sunday morning, so got to see him at work after hearing about his thought process. What a treat! Akio's work has always been figurative, but I was more familiar with his early vessels. He is still involved with vessel forms,
but the lecture focused on the series of life-size figures he has created for a number of exhibitions in the last ten years or so.
Akio Takamori was born in 1950 in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan. While working as an apprentice in a production pottery in Japan, he met ceramicist Ken Ferguson, who became a lifelong friend. He moved to the U.S. in 1974 to attend the Kansas City Art Institute, receiving his BFA there in 1976 and an MFA from Alfred University in New York in 1978. Since 1993 he has been a faculty member in the University of Washington School of Art. Working for years in a variety of media, he has incorporated drawings, lithos, and photographs in the most recent exhibitions.
Much of Takamori's work is an exploration one's place in the world, how one sees oneself and how others see him, particularly across cultures. Seemingly very comfortable in his own skin, Akio said he finds self-consciousness "uncomfortable, but also stimulating", and the recent exhibitions have played with the roles of viewer and viewed in different ways.
In "Sleepers", all the figures were placed on tatami mats, and all were asleep. Akio said audiences were at once more respectful because a sleeping figure is so vulnerable, and freer to look, since the figure didn't look back. Most recently, figures are paired with photographs and prints of themselves, sometimes viewing each other and sometimes avoiding each other's gaze.
Seeing Akio at the workshop after hearing him talk about his process was eye-opening. He works in a buff stoneware and paints with underglazes and stains, and the pieces are usually fired several times, three on average.
Akio rarely uses glazes, so there is no shininess to deflect the viewer away from the surface. Instead you are drawn into his fascinating world of reflection.
Thanks to Austin ceramicist Ginger Geyer for the workshop photo. http://www.gingergeyer.com/artist_links/index.html