2007 - Toshiko Takaezu
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By Elizabeth Wallace, Marketing Intern
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Green Hill proudly presented Toshiko Takaezu: The Art of Clay, an exhibition of works by internationally acclaimed ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu. Organized by the Japanese-American Museum in Los Angeles in 2006, Green Hill presented an expanded version of the exhibition.  Small and large-scale clay works created throughout Takaezu’s career were on display as well as her lesser known weaving. Green Hill secured exclusivity for the exhibition and it was the only showing of Toshiko Takaezu's work on the east coast during 2007. Toshiko Takaezu was present during periods of the exhibition and attended the private and public opening receptions. 

The exhibition paid homage to Takaezu’s accomplishments as a master ceramist who had redefined her craft and brought it into the wider art arena.  It also honored the many years she instructed and inspired a generation of North Carolina potters at the Penland School of Crafts and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro during the 1960’s and 70’s. The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan had recently hosted a retrospective of Takaezu’s work. In addition, the American Craft Museum in New York City, the Morris Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Perimeter Gallery in Chicago, and the Frank Lloyd Gallery in Santa Monica, in addition to other recognized visual arts institutions have hosted exhibitions of Takaezu’s work.

For over fifty years, Toshiko Takaezu remained dedicated to exploring the art of clay, as an artist and influential teacher. Born in 1922 in Hawaii to Japanese immigrants from Okinawa, Takaezu studied at the University of Hawaii before attending the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 1950s. In the mid-1950’s, Takaezu traveled to Okinawa and Japan, the homeland of her parents. The purpose of her journey was to immerse herself in the culture of Japan as well as to study with some Japanese potters who were already well-known in the United States. Those included Shoji Hamada, Rosanjin Kitaoji and Toyo Kaneshige. During this period of stay in Japan, Zen and tea ceremony became central to her life and for many years influenced her work.  In the following decade, she became known for her “closed forms” which she achieved by the simple yet radical act of “closing the mouth of the vessel.” Takaezu, along with Peter Voulkos and other ceramic artists of the 1950s and 1960s, were instrumental in exploring clay as a medium for art beyond its conventional utilitarian purpose.

Takaezu’s vocabulary of closed forms provided her with a “canvas” for her exuberant and painterly glazes. Similar in shape and style, these forms demonstrate tremendous variation. Takaezu often refered to these works as “pots.” Yet, when queried about her closed forms, Takaezu replied with wry aplomb, “You can’t put anything in and you can’t take anything out.” The interior of these pots remains a mystery, which can be likened to the mysteries of artistic process.

This exhibition was the centerpiece for Greensboro’s first cultural tourism initiative that took place over a ten day period in June, 2007.  Partnering with the Greensboro Convention and Visitor Bureau and Greensboro’s United Arts Council, Green Hill created attractive visitor packages that encouraged cultural tourists to attend the exhibition and take advantage of other cultural organizations, hotels, restaurants and area attractions.

Sadly, the art world said goodbye to the incredibly talented Toshiko Takaezu on March 9, 2011. Everyone at Greenhill is and will always be thankful that we had the opportunity to present her work to the community.


To see other notable milestones from the past 40 years, check out our special 40th anniversary page: Click Here

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