Keiko Fukazawa: “Made in China: New Ceramic Works” at Craft and Folk Art Museum

Chinese Landscape VII, 2015, Keiko Fukazawa, Porcelain, oxide, glaze, decals, 16″ x 24″ x 61⁄2″  Photo: Susan Einstein. Courtesy: the artist and Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles

Issues of global consumerism, cultural politics and the environment find equal voice in Keiko Fukazawa’s striking debut solo exhibition at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. The diversity of the LA-based artist’s thematic concerns strike the viewer immediately upon entering the nearly overflowing second floor gallery space, with distinct series unified by Fukazawa’s deft ability to weave together strains of traditional and contemporary ceramic practices. This comfortable amalgamation of formal concerns is the result of the artist’s years of training which range from conservative, with an early apprenticeship in “the renowned ceramics town of Shigaraki,” followed by the explorative, taking inspiration in the experimental work of Peter Voulkos and moving to Los Angeles in 1984 to study at Otis Art Institute with Ralph Bacerra. More recently, Fukazawa has held residencies in Jingdezhen, China, a renowned center of ceramic and porcelain production for well over a millennia. The recent residencies in Jingdezhen led to a revival of the Japan-born artist’s interest in China’s cultural history, a subject the 2016 COLA fellowship winner also explored in her recent show at the El Camino College Art Gallery. A series of stark-white porcelain portraits-ranging from half-length to isolated arms or heads-depict Chairman Mao covered in peony blossoms. These works are an inherent critique of the 1957 “Hundred Flowers” campaign, a short-lived invitation to voice criticism against the Communist Government. Poignantly, they stand in eulogy for those Mao later deemed “poisonous weeds.”

Fukazawa fuses her interest in the artistic heritage of Chinese art in multiple bodies of work. At the gallery’s entrance a series of curious celadons, i.e., multi-spouted teapots and the like, constructed from undesirable leftovers are installed across from a wall featuring hanging clusters of the prized medium crafted in the shape of everyday disposable plastic bottles. In each, the pairing of valued/devalued is both playful and overt. Farther in, a series of large porcelain boxes, bearing monochromatic landscape paintings reference historic styles dating back to the Song Dynasty. The artist employs the familiar scenery and distinctive cun, or texture strokes, before disrupting the imagery with various symbols. In effect, Fukazawa replaces the traditional red stamp seals of ownership, approval and artistic success by aristocrats, scholars and emperors, and replaced them with corporate logos, golden ink blotches or red dot decals-our contemporary signs of ownership, approval and commercial success. The landscapes are completely disrupted by these contemporary additions, scattered over the carefully rendered scenes-perhaps a reflection of the commercially driven disruption of the treasured views of the natural landscape.