Spiritual Fecundity in Chicago

  Be interesting to know what were like the childhoods of architect Tadao Ando and ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu.  The installation of a selection from the oeuvre of the latter in a gallery designed by the former together create an experience far beyond corporeal beauty. 

  If there can be a soul of a building, one such numinous sanctuary is Ando’s space in Chicago’s Art Institute. Commissioned in 1989 to exhibit from the Institute’s Japanese screens, the small room is unforgettable.

  Upon entering, through the center of the short end of the dimly lit rectangular room, one looks through four rows of one foot square oak columns.  The vitrine is arranged along the long wall on the right and continues across the back wall straight ahead.  It is illuminated.  The view through the oak and cast shadows is to be as if, upon the porch of a traditional Japanese house, one looks inside.

  Ando says: “Not everything can be accounted for reasonably…there are things in society that cannot be explained just in functional terms. I have provided functionless columns and walls…I feel this irrational quality is important. The modernism of the past became insipid because it rejected such irrationalism”.

  Takaezu’s pots draw from the range of her career and are interspersed with several from important mentors and contemporaries.  Well represented in the twenty or so are examples of her vertical closed vessels.  She says of these: “The most important part of a piece is the dark, black air space that you can’t see.  Just as what’s inside each person is also the key to humanity”.

  Some of her pieces are indeed human scale and elsewhere stand outside in fields or gardens.  Some, holding small ceramic balls, sound when gently shaken.  Visitors here might be disappointed at their inability to move around and touch her work.

  Like a compassionate abbess, Takaezu must be fine with it.  “When I was a small girl in Hawaii, I was fascinated by my shadow because it was taller than I.”  Here her pots are stroked by even taller shadows.  Her fertile dark spaces are clearly manifest behind the glass, but reserved.

  She knows that if, on the opposite benches perhaps, you linger long enough with an open heart, with her invitation, and with Ando’s generosity, you just might get a glimpse inside.

  An audience with the screens too is very fine, but different – for the historicity.  Come back in a few months and see them if you have yet not.  But don’t miss this.     

  At the Art Institute of Chicago through June 8, 2008.

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