1953
Born in Shimonoseki city, Yamaguchi Prefecture, JAPAN

 

Personal

 

1988
Professor Kyoto Municipal University of Arts and Music
(Currently chairman of the Department of Ceramics)

1986
Became an official member of International Ceramic Academy

1978-81
Taught ceramics to handicapped children at Zeno, a home for disabled children

1978
Completed postgraduate course in ceramics, Kyoto Municipal University of Arts and Music

1972
Entered Kyoto Municipal University of Arts and Music
Studied under Yagi Kazuo and started to use black clay

 

Solo Exhibitions

 

2010
Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Bruxelles, BELGIUM

2007
« Essence of Clay - the Sculptural Art of Akiyama Yô », Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. at SOFA, New York, USA

2005
Gallery Kochukyo, Tokyo, JAPAN

2004
INAX Tile Museum, Tokoname, Aichi, JAPAN

1999
Contemporary Art NIKI, Tokyo, JAPAN

1998                         
Muramatsu Gallery, Tokyo, JAPAN

1991                         
Shibuya Seibu Craft Gallery, Tokyo, JAPAN

1988                         
Shibuya Seibu Craft Gallery, Tokyo, JAPAN

1987                         
Gallery Nakamura, Kyoto, JAPAN (also in 1996)
Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo, JAPAN (also in 1996)

1986                         
INAX Gallery 2, Tokyo, JAPAN

1980                         
Gallery 16, Kyoto, JAPAN

1976                         
Gallery Iteza, Kyoto, JAPAN (also in 1977)

 

Group Exhibitions


2013                         
« Design Miami/Basel », Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, SWITZERLAND

2012                         
Design Miami, Miami Beach, Pierre Marie Giraud, USA
Design Basel/Miami, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, SWITZERLAND
« Légèreté ? », Maison Particulière, Brussels, BELGIUM

2011                         
Design Miami, Miami Beach, Pierre Marie Giraud, USA
Design Basel/Miami, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, SWITZERLAND

2010                        
Design Basel/Miami, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, SWITZERLAND

2009                        
« Darkside of Earth », Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels, BELGIUM
Design Basel/Miami, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, SWITZERLAND

2008-2009           
The Dauer Collection, California State University, Sacramento, University Library Gallery, USA

2007                        
Work from the Soil, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, JAPAN
Enku Grand Award Exhibition, The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, JAPAN
Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition 2007, Daimaru Art Gallery, Tokyo and Osaka, JAPAN

2006                        
The Quintessence of Modern Japanese Ceramics, Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum, Ibaraki, JAPAN
Ceramic Art Grand Prize Exhibition, Paramita Museum, JAPAN
The Musée Tomo, Contemporary Ceramics for the Tea Ceremony, Musée Tomo, Tokyo, JAPAN
Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century, Japan Society, New York, USA

2005                        
Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
Transformations: The language of craft, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, AUSTRALIA
Alternative Paradise, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, JAPAN

2004
Katachi ga kiru[Cut by Shape]: Japanese Modern Ceramics; Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu, JAPAN
Confronting Tradition: Contemporary Art from Kyoto, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USA

2003
Japan- Ceramics and Photography: Tradition and Today, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, GERMANY
Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition 2003, Daimaru Gallery, Tokyo, Osaka, JAPAN

2002
A History of Japanese Modern Craft, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, JAPAN
The Legacy of Modern Ceramic Art, Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu, JAPAN

2001
Exhibited and published, Leaders of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture, 2001, Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum, Ibaraki, JAPAN
The 19th Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture 2001, Ube Open Air Sculpture Museum, Ube , JAPAN
Crafts in Kyoto 1945-2000, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, JAPAN

2000                        
Craft in Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, JAPAN
Communication Party Volume 5 Art Life, Mitsuhashi, JAPAN
Heroes of our Era, International Ceramic Studio, Kecskemét, HUNGARY

1999
Japanese Contemporary Ceramic Art, Museum van Bommel, Van Dam, Venlo, NETHERLANDS
Artisti dal Mondo, Faenza International Ceramic Museum, Faenza, ITALY

1998
Dialogue with Clay - The Spirit of Contemporary Ceramics, Rias Ark Museum of Art, Iwate, JAPAN

1997
World Triennial Exhibition of Small Ceramics, Zagreb, CROATIA

1996
The Expression and the Potential in Contemporary Ceramics, Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Seto, Aichi, JAPAN
The Suntory Prize '96- Challenges on Forms, Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo, JAPAN

1995
Japanese Studio Craft: Tradition and Avant-garde, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

1994
Art and the Inner Eye, Nagoya City Museum of Art, Nagoya, Aichi, JAPAN
The Domain of the Medium, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, JAPAN
Fascinating Contemporary Ceramic Art, Sôgetsu Art Museum, Tokyo, JAPAN
International Contemporary Ceramic Arts Exhibition, Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Seto, Aichi, JAPAN
Clay Work Exhibition, National Museum of Arts, Osaka, JAPAN

1993
Contemporary Ceramics 1950-1990, Aichi Prefecture Museum of Art, Nagoya, Aichi, JAPAN

1992
NICAF Yokohama '92, Yokohama Exhibition Hall, Yokohama, JAPAN
Ceramics of Japan: 100 Selected Products of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Mitsukoshi, JAPAN
Ètoile Gallery, Paris, FRANCE

1991
Metamorphosis of Contemporary Ceramics- International Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park Museum, Shiga, JAPAN

1990                        
The Now in Japanese Ceramics- Messages from Artists in Kyoto, Takashimaya Gallery, Kyoto, JAPAN
The Game of Manners- Japanese Art in 1990, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, JAPAN
Japanese Clay Work Today, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Tochigi, JAPAN
Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, JAPAN

1989                          
Contemporary Clay Work, Kanagawa Prefectural Gallery , JAPAN
Europalia-Japan '89 Ceramic Art in the Showa Era, Mons City Museum, BELGIUM
The 46th Faenza International Ceramic Exhibition, Faenza, ITALY

1988                         
Shiga Annual '88 Clay Work - the Repro-Action of Form, Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, JAPAN
East-West Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition, Seoul Olympic Arts Festival, Art Center of the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation, Seoul, SOUTH KOREA

1987
Clay Sculpture from the 1950's in Japan, Museum of Fine Art, Gifu, JAPAN
Clay Work \'87, Gallery Marione, Kyoto, JAPAN

1986
Clay - Image and Form 1981-1985, Ôtsu seibe Hall; Yûraku-chô Art Forum, Tokyo, JAPAN
Contemporary Japanese Ceramics, traveling exhibition in the U.S. and Eastern Europe

1984
Kyoto Art and Crafts Exhibition, Kyoto Prefectural Culture and Art Forum, JAPAN (also in 1985)

1982
Solo exhibition, Gallery Marione, Kyoto, JAPAN (also in 1983)

1980
Sôdeisha exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum, Kyoto, JAPAN

1976
The 39th Sôdeisha exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto, JAPAN

 

Selected Public Collections

 

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, JAPAN

Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Seto, Aichi, JAPAN

Aichi Prefecture Museum of Arts, Nagoya, Aichi, JAPAN

Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum, Ibaraki, JAPAN

Japan Foundation, JAPAN

Kôriyama City Literature Hall, JAPAN

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, JAPAN

Kyoto Prefecture, JAPAN

Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, JAPAN

Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, JAPAN

Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu, JAPAN

National Museum of Art, Osaka, JAPAN

National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, JAPAN

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shiga Prefecture, JAPAN

Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo, JAPAN

Takamatsu City Museum, Takamatsu, JAPAN

Tokoname Board of Education, Tokoname, Aichi, JAPAN

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo, JAPAN

Ube Open-Air Sculpture Museum, Ube, JAPAN

Everson Museum of Fine Art, Syracuse, USA

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, USA

Mint Museum of Craft and Design, Charlotte, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USA

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA

Faenza International Ceramic Museum, Faenza, ITALY

International Ceramic Studio, Kecskemét, HUNGARY

Keramion Frachen, GERMANY

Prague Decorative Art Museum, CZECH REPUBLIC

 

 


Catalog text by Rupert Faulkner


It is very timely that this exhibition of the work of Akiyama  should be taking
place in the same year as he was awarded the Grand Prix in the 17th MOA Okada Mokichi Prize. As I write, Akiyama?s massive Heterophony 3, first shown in Osaka in 2009, is on display in the spectacular surroundings of the MOA Museum in Atami. Its wedge-shaped form measures over two metres high, nearly two metres deep and a little under 80 centimetres wide. It contains over one cubic metre of clay and weighs somewhere in the region of one and a half tons - a rusty black, tectonic mass whose awesome presence overwhelms and compels in the same way as an abstract steel composition by Anthony Caro or Richard Serra.

The MOA Okada Mokichi Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in the Japanese art calendar. It has one section devoted to painting and a second devoted to the crafts (kôgei). Until 2009, the policy with regard to the latter was to make awards to artists affiliated with the Japan Crafts Association (Nihon Kôgeikai) and its associated Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition (Nihon Dentô Kôgeiten). Exceptions were made in the case of a few ceramic artists, but in terms of overall orientation their work resonated closely with that of their classicist peers. This year, however, a conscious change in approach threw the doors open so that makers working across the full spectrum of the crafts became eligible for consideration. In this respect Akiyama?s receipt of the Grand Prix represents an accolade beyond all normal accolades and places him on a pedestal that many people, including numerous commentators outside Japan, have long felt he deserves to occupy.

Akiyama is a very serious artist, thoughtful, enquiring and self-critical. It is not insignificant that after finishing his BA and then MA at Kyoto City University of Arts in 1978, he spent three years working in a home for children with special needs. During this period, frustrated by his inability as a student to have found a satisfactory approach to clay, he tried to expunge from his mind what he had learnt at university and to start afresh. In an interview he gave in 2007, he explained how it was through observing the children in his care playing with clay ? how they would spend hours exploring it with their fingers, slapping and hitting it to produce sounds, or putting it in their mouths to taste ? that he came to understand that clay was not just a material to be tamed and shaped in accordance with some preconceived idea, but, far more fundamentally, something that had an innate life force that cried out to be engaged with intuitively and directly.

Akiyama?s great breakthrough came with his discovery of fissuring - the way in which pieces of unfired clay have a propensity to split open and reveal an inner ruggedness that contrasts sharply with the smoothness of their finished surfaces. That clay splits and cracks is commonly understood by all with any familiarity with the material, but, circa 1980, was not something that anyone had thought of exploiting as an inherently positive attribute. Like an inspired mathematician lighting upon the simplest and most elegant of solutions, Akiyama had found himself a language that spoke of and was spoken by clay, a language whose vocabulary combined suggestion, metaphor ? ?as clay is to earth, so too is a kiln to the earth?s core? ? and intense physicality.

Up until 1993, Akiyama?s works were of two main kinds. The pieces in his Peneplain series consisted of large expanses of blow-torched and finely fissured burnished black clay reminiscent of cracked but still glistening mudflats. The pieces in his Pho and Geological Age series, by contrast, consisted of stacks of rings of clay of different diameters and thicknesses which had been individually blow-torched and reversed so that their inner surfaces appeared on the outside, the deep gaps between each concavely curved and burnished section revealing the craggy surfaces of the ruptured clay. During this period Akiyama used the technique of ?Black Fire? (kokut?) that had been pioneered during the 1960s by Yagi Kazuo (1918-79), one of his teachers at Kyoto City University of Arts. This technique, which has been one of the mainstays of avant-garde Japanese ceramics for the best part of half a century, involves burning large amounts of carbonizing material in an earthenware firing so that the surface of the clay turns completely black.

In 1993 Akiyama stopped making earthenware and started working in stoneware instead. The sheen achieved by burnishing is retained at earthenware temperatures, but is lost as clay vitrifies at stoneware temperatures. Akiyama?s switch from earthenware to stoneware was accordingly followed by the abandoning of his large-scale Peneplain series, whose impact depended to a large extent on their burnished surfaces. In the case of his Pho and Geological Age series, on the other hand, and also his Oscillation and Border System works of the mid-1990s to early 2000s, the change to stoneware resulted in the introduction of colour and tonal variety. Akiyama pigments his stoneware clay so that it fires as nearly black as he can achieve. What he then does ? another stroke of counter-ceramic intuitivism ? is to patinate his pieces by treating them with a mixture of iron filings and vinegar. This results in the rustiness characteristic to a greater or lesser degree (depending on how extensively the ?pickling? is carried out) of all his stoneware pieces.

The next important development in Akiyama?s work took place when he started experimenting with making stacks of bowls by piling one on top of another while they were still wet off the wheel. The weight of the bowls above compresses those below to produce an irregular, ribbed cylinder of clay not unlike a stack of bowls that has collapsed and fused together in the kiln. Using this new technique, Akiyama embarked in 2003 on his Metavoid series, two examples of which feature in the current exhibition.

Akiyama is undoubtedly one of the great ceramic artists of our day. Forever inquisitive, he explores and experiments, refines, revisits and re-invents. He is especially known for his large-scale works ? the pieces in his recent Heterophony series, for example, or his outdoor 2001 Oscillation VI, which was more than eight metres long ? but he also has a remarkable ability to work on a more intimate scale. The smaller works in the current exhibition all belong to his Untitled series and have a maximum dimension usually in the order of 40 to 50 centimetres. Their size, and this is also true of his Metavoid series, makes them less intimidating than his large-scale works, and allows him to combine the whole gamut of his techniques ? Peneplain surface fissuring, Geological Age fracturing, wheel-throwing, smoothing and rust patination ? to produce sculptural compositions that are quietly inviting of contemplation. Many of them are also vessels or have a vessel-like quality, which gives them added fascination. In this respect it is interesting to note that Akiyama also makes what he terms Table-Works, the possibilities of which, as he has noted, are ?limitless?.

In closing I would like to thank Akiyama for providing me with the photographs, catalogues and other documents that have allowed me to write this introduction. I would also like to pay tribute to Pierre Marie Giraud for organising Europe?s first solo exhibition of Akiyama?s work. It was only a few years ago that Pierre Marie contacted me to ask about contemporary Japanese ceramics, in which he was beginning to develop an interest. With the modest amount of advice I was able to give him, he has moved forward with swiftness and determination to stage what must surely be one of the most important solo exhibitions of contemporary Japanese ceramics to have been held in Europe in recent years. To both him and to the artist I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations.

(From exhibition catalog: Akiyama  , 2010, p.5-9)