Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII
Nonaka-Hill, Los Angeles, CA
July 22 - September 16, 2023
Born as Masahiro Kiyomizu in 1954, the artist is the eighth-generation head of the Kiyomizu Rokubey family ceramics kiln, founded in Kyoto in 1771. The legendary kiln has been central to the development of Kyō-ware and to centuries of Japan’s ceramic history. As the eldest son of his predecessor, renowned sculptor Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII, the artist assumed the family name in the year 2000 and maintains stewardship of the legacy. Following in his father’s footsteps, Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII also deviates from the family ceramic traditions by producing predominantly non-functional ceramic sculpture of contemporary artistic merit.
A graduate of Waseda University’s School of Architecture, Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII applies engineering theory to clay slab-building, creating polyhedral sculptures that concretize features of minimalist, cubist, and futurist aesthetics. Composed of single or multiple modular units, Kiyomizu's crisp, planar transitions might resemble origami or complex compound forms redolent of industrial factories, ancient kivas, totems or Sci-Fi structures. Kiyomizu works with and against clay’s fugitive nature, pushing the limits of structural integrity to achieve a formal tension. In certain works, the artist engineers sagging, splitting, and curving into his geometric forms, synthesizing his architectural interest and biomorphist leanings.
Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII’s sculptures on view span from 1993 to 2023, revealing an impressive morphology, from floor-bound works to tabletop-sized sculptures that invite intimate and contemplative viewing. Glazed with matte blacks or pearly whites, each sculpture exploits a wide range of tonal shifts in light and shadow. This is further augmented by Kiyomizu’s invariable use of negative space that co-structures each work through soft contours cut into their angular chassis, revealing a tense interplay between curves and right angles.
With titles such as “Structure of Memory,” or “Tower of Memory,” Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII alludes to the “memory” of clay as a recorder of human manipulation and chemical conversion, but also to the sculpture itself as a metaphorical container of human memories or consciousness. In a pyramidal work, “Memories of the Future 22”, it alludes to memories of a future that have already occurred—hinting at a science-fictional dimension. Kiyomizu Rokubey VIII’s works thus have a world-building undercurrent to them, whose physical voids get filled with our imaginative fumes of fancy. They are mysterious and sensuous objects whose subtle ur-narratives slowly unfurl over repeated viewing.