Contemporary Bizen: Isezaki Jun & Isezaki Koichiro

Father and Son Perspective on 800 Years of Tradition

November 14 – December 5, 2020

Press Release

Lucy Lacoste Gallery is honored to present Contemporary Bizen: Isezaki Jun and Isezaki Koichiro featuring the Living National Treasure of Bizen, Isezaki Jun, and his trailblazing son Isezaki Koichiro exhibiting together for the first time November 14 – December 5, 2020. 

The town of Imbe in Bizen province has a ceramic history going back 800 years and is considered the site of one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.  Today walking around the town, known for its Bizen pottery, it is not unusual to see smoke rising through the air, from one of the town’s 300 or so wood-firing kilns.

Traditional Bizen ware has a rustic quality and played a role in the development of the tea ceremony.  It is made with a sticky, fine clay, dug from the rice paddies, which does not hold a glaze well.  Much of the work is wheel thrown and relies on surface effects from falling ash, rice straw markings and the artful stacking of the wood burning kiln to block out or enhance certain areas.

The Isezaki family live in a secluded compound that includes housing for both artists and their families, individual studios and multiple kilns. One of these kilns was an ancient climbing kiln that was brought back to life by Isezaki Jun’s father, Isezaki Yozan, one of the early great Bizen sculptors of the 20th century (1902 -1961). 

Isezaki Jun (b. 1936) the fifth Living National Treasure of Bizen is considered one of the foremost masters of the Bizen style. While using the traditional Bizen clay and incorporating the Bizen firing techniques, his vessels demonstrate unique, one of a kind details of form. Often, they are slab-built. Fu-setsu (Wind and Snow) and Man-nen (Ten Thousand Years), are both contemporary works of ceramic sculptural art.  Iseazki Jun has been featured in several major exhibitions at Lucy Lacoste Gallery and was the master to Kakurezaki Ryuichi, the legendary avant garde ceramic artist. According to Isezaki Jun, the true meaning of tradition is continued renewal “creating something new that represents the present and tradition in equal measure.” 

The works of Isezaki Jun can be found in the British Museum London, UK; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA; the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; among select other public and private collections.

Isezaki Koichiro b. 1974 is represented by Lucy Lacoste Gallery and has shown here many times.  He went to art school at Tokyo Sculptural University where he was making wood sculpture. One day, thinking about how material effects the work and the artist’s mind, he said “what about clay”.  He made a conscious decision to become a ceramic artist, realizing he could do everything he wanted to do with clay. He then apprenticed with the American potter Jeff Shapiro who had been mentored by his dad.  As a result, his work has a certain freedom and creativity.

While his work contains elements of the traditional, it leaps to the contemporary. He seeks personal expression, an impetus made stronger by awareness of history.

The innovative, sculptural Yo series by Koichiro Isezaki came from his realizations while making tea bowls. Curious about the inside air and outside air, he wondered if there is a form that can feel space (inside) by form (outside).  And then he started to bend and squash vessels.  The vessels have hollowness.  He believes the inner world and the outer world connect to each other and this relationship is a universal truth. Above all, he wants people to feel the living, breathing atmosphere from these pieces which have a sense of movement implied.

As Mr. Shapiro, a noted international ceramic artist writes: ‘Koichiro maintains the tradition of Bizen by giving attention and respect to the natural clays from the area and utilizing the traditional firing techniques. Yet Koichiro has surpassed those parameters and has chosen to evolve as an artist by constantly pushing the direction of his work in new ways. Working in the studio complex of his father Living National Treasure Isezaki Jun, Koichiro is carrying on the ‘tradition’ that Jun has established, but his innovations on form and surface have truly become his own.”


Find the recorded Roundtable discussion between the artists, Izesaki Jun and Izesaki Koichiro, the renowned ceramicist and panel moderator, Jeff Shapiro, translator, Chris Field, and the gallery owner, Lucy Lacoste here:



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