From left to right: Bert Winther-Tamaki, Mr. Tsujimura Shiro, Mrs. Tsujimura, Ms. Meghan Jones (Alfred University) at the
Tsujimura residence and ceramic studio, Nara, Japan, August 4, 2017.
Finding New PathsBy Bert Winther-Tamaki
Fellowships over the past two years at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto allowed me to work on a book provisionally titled Aesthetics of Soil and Earth in Japanese Ceramics, Photography, and Installation Art of the 1950s through the 1970s. Due to rapid industrialization and urbanization in Japan during these years, a shell of concrete and asphalt spread over more and more of the land underfoot. In this context, artists used the media of fired clay, earth photography, and soil installations as laboratories for investigating preoccupations with earth and land that ranged from nostalgia for ancestral arable land to fear of industrial and radioactive contamination. This project led me far beyond my usual areas of research to topics such as rituals that immersed bodies in mud, terrifying landslides that moved enormous masses of earth, and insecticides and military weapons that scorched the land. Interviewing artists and scholars in Japan and translating numerous Japanese texts gave me new appreciation for the value of artworks as documents of shifting experiences of the beauty and menace of the earth. In addition to this project, recent essays include “Remediated Ink: The Debt of Modern and Contemporary Asian Ink Aesthetics to Non-Ink Media,” Getty Research Journal (2018); “Japanese Views of the Void in Sam Francis’s Painting, 1957-1962” for the Tate Museum’s website publication project, In Focus (Forthcoming, 2018); and “Modernist Passions for ‘Old Japan’: Hasegawa Saburō and Isamu Noguchi in 1950” for the catalogue of an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in 2019.
Kosho Itoh, Earthfolds, det., 2002. Tate Saint Ives.