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Goro Suzuki
The Tea Ceremony
September 4-September 29, 1999
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Reshaping a Tradition: Goro Suzukiís playful tea bowls, water jars, stacking boxes, serving dishes and flower vases are so casual in bearing and format that they make the highly formalized tea ceremonies for which they were crafted seem like relaxed gatherings of friends.  At Frank Lloyd Gallery, 30 pieces by the master ceramist from Japan transform a style of pottery that flourished in the 16th century into a fresh, utterly contemporary element of social life.

The majority of the vessels follow the Oribe style, named after an artisan who, because of some dishonor, was compelled to commit ritual suicide more than 400 years ago.  To this genre, Suzuki brings a series of personal symbols, using black glazes to add cartoonish images of lightbulbs, crows, and fences to loose geometric patterns.  Dense green glazes play off grounds of pink and tan, framing and accenting the swiftly sketched pictographs.

Structurally, Suzukiís hefty, thick-sided jars, bowls and nesting boxes have an architectural presence.  You feel the pull of gravity and the resistance offered by the unfired clay that the artist himself must have felt when he made his asymmetrical vessels, whose uneven sides and undulating covers still convey a sense of droopy ease.

A pair of oddly cylindrical flower vases and several water jars resemble squat little houses to which additional rooms have been added, forming chimney-like stories and idiosyncratic silhouettes.  A plump incense burner with three spindly legs and an open dome looks like an old-fashioned spaceship, especially since itís accompanied by an egg-sized storage pod.

In a sense, Suzuki does to pottery what Frank Gehry does to architecture.  Transforming rigid grids and right angles into swooping contours and rolling planes, the talented ceramist demonstrates that traditions live by change.

-David Pagel, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1999