Joan Takayama-Ogawa; “A Sense of Place”
American Museum of Ceramic Art [AMOCA], Pomona; Scripps College, Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Claremont
by Jeanne Willette
Joan Takayama-Ogawa, "The Great Barrier Reef,” 2016, ceramic, 43 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 15 1/2"
Los Angeles ceramic artist, Joan Takayama-Ogawa is having “a moment,” with concurrent solo shows in Pomona and Claremont. Given her decades-long career, Takayama-Ogawa is a living witness to the development of a ceramic culture in Los Angeles, a world that is a complex cacophony of different voices, techniques, styles and philosophies. As a student of Ralph Bacerra, she usually occupies the corner that explores beauty, decoration, ornamentation and narrative with unabashed exuberance. Her new pieces at AMOCA, however, are a departure, the “Climate Change” title referencing the departure of the exquisite colored coral reefs that so recently graced our shores. Due to climate change, the reefs are now bereft of their many hues and stand starkly bleached, like the bones of the dead. Deviating from her signature strong glazes, touched with gold and laced with humor in favor of a blanched and scarred memorial to things past, Takayama-Ogawa has created an earthen mourning to this mass death. A white perforated pillar topped by a disc with its center punched out faces us accusingly and blindly, reproving all of us as accessories to an environmental crime.
The nine artists included in Scripps’ “A Sense of Place” ceramic annual, curated by Takayama-Ogawa, display the range of the local tradition, from Chris Antemann’s rowdy dinner party, a parody of the mincing Meissen figures of the past, to Red Weldon Sandlin’s send-up of the artists who love a good teapot. Some of the ceramists featured enjoy the translation of clay into exquisite objects shining with expertly applied glazes, while others prefer a more somber shape and finish. Michael Sherrill pays homage to nature with life-sized replicas of flowers and fruit, while Mara Superior wields humor like a political knife, skewering those who have done harm to their nation. The always surprising Porntip Sagavanich takes a page from the playbook of Ken Price and Frank Stella, exploring the abstract possibilities of two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional shapes. Even the traditionalists bring fresh perspectives, including the plates of Anna Silver and Diego Romero and the vessels of Jeff Oestreich and Ehren Tool. Featuring the impressive curatorial debut of Takayama-Ogawa, the "73rd Scripps Annual” figures to remain an regional favorite (American Museum of Ceramic Art