Public Lecture: Bodies in Earth: Postwar Japanese Ceramics, Photography, and Installation Art

  • Tuesday, February 27, 2018
  • Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, 5 PM
  • Bert Winther-Tamaki is Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. 

    Co-sponsored by the Five College History of Art Faculty Seminar and Smith College East Asian Studies.

    Placing the human body in direct physical contact with some mode of earthy matter was a widespread impulse in ceramics, photography, and installation art in postwar Japan. Images and actions that foregrounded the touch of skin and flesh to soil or clay evoked thoughts ranging from death and abjection to pastoral nostalgia and agricultural fertility. A new aesthetics of earth was driven by the historical context of full-throttle economic growth and urbanization that polluted the land with chemical emissions and concealed the soil beneath an expanding shell of asphalt and concrete. This lecture considers critical responses to these conditions by photographers, ceramicists, and avant-garde installation artists working in Japan in the 1950s through 1970s. 

    Bert Winther-Tamaki has published two monographs with the University of Hawai’i Press: Art in the Encounter of Nations; Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years (2001) and Maximum Embodiment: Yōga, the ‘Western Painting’ of Japan, 1912–1955 (2012). Journal articles include “Remediated Ink: The Debt of Modern and Contemporary Asian Ink Aesthetics to Non-Ink Media” Getty Research Journal (Forthcoming, 2018) and “The Ligneous Aesthetic of the Postwar Sōsaku Hanga Movement and American Perspectives on the Modern Japanese Culture of Wood,”Archives of Asian Art, 66: 2 (2016). Exhibition texts include Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics; A Close Embrace of the Earth (Co-author with Louise Cort, Freer Gallery of Art, 2003) and Modernist Passions for ‘Old Japan’: Hasegawa Saburō and Isamu Noguchi in 1950 (Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, Forthcoming, 2019). Winther-Tamaki has held fellowships at the Getty Research Center (2016) and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto (2017) and is preparing a book about manifestations of earth, land, and soil in late twentieth-century Japanese ceramics, photography and installation art.