Forms in Aggression
I am very excited to open our new exhibition highlighting ceramic works by young artists working in the 1960s and early 70s. It was a time of major ideological upheaval in Japan, Like in the US, there was a huge generation gap between the Children born and raised post-war, and their much more conservative parents born before. College Campuses were closed down, fire-bombings, police in the streets and protest were rampant. At the height of the Vietnam War (for which Japan served as a leaping off point and R&R destination for US soldiers) one firing point was opposition to the continuance of the Security Treaty between the United States and Japan (Known in Japanese as Anpo) from 1968 – 1970, as well as demand for the return of Okinawa, then under US jurisdiction. Long ignored requests for liberalization of University education and opposition to the creation of Narita Airport through the government tactic of dispossessing farmers from their ancestral lands were also major issues. During the riots, leftist activists barricaded themselves in Universities, resulting in armed conflict with the Japanese police force. At the height 13,497students were arrested for group protests in 1969.
When looking at the exhibition catalogs of the era, you see refined works by top names, Yamazaki Koyo, Kusube Yaichi, Suzuki Osamu, Miyashita Zenju, Kiyomizu Rokubei and others who served as mentors to these youths. Alongside are these works, so different, so very aggressive and demanding, utterly raw, which command our attention. To me seeing them it is like listening to Garage Band Music, raw, unfiltered and undiluted. It is the voice of youth. They are not beautiful in a classic sense, not what one would expect from a National Exhibition. One can imagine the artist walking into the vetting committee surrounded by hundreds of pieces by the top names at that time, brow knit, dropping the heavy slab onto the counter and staring down the judge with a defiant “DOUYA!”