Kim is the Exhibitions and Marketing Coordinator at Pucker Gallery. She studied Art History and Arts Leadership at Boston University and has a passion for photography, weaving, and clay.
Echoing his apprenticeship with Tatsuzo Shimaoka and then training with Warren MacKenzie, Randy Johnston’s ceramic works feature many traditional Japanese forms, like the chawan (tea bowl) and the yunomi (teacup). Now based in River Falls, Wisconsin, Johnston continues his exploration of unique decorative elements and shapes. His engagement with contemporary times, via dissolving cultural boundaries, known as globalism, informs how he looks back to ancient and historical artworks. His influences are modernistic at their core, ranging from Dogon ceremonial masks to Constantin Brancusi. The forms are robust and imperfect, clearly made by the hand of an artist. One of my favorite features of his work is his handprint. RJ466 shows them so clearly that one can see the result of his hand gripping the piece as one half is first dunked into a vat of glaze, and then the other.
RJ466, Square vase, shino glaze over iron slip with brushwork, Stoneware, 17 x 6.5 x 6.5"
Brushwork decorations also highlight his connection to modern art, and contribute to the quality and dynamism of his work. They are gestural, chaotic, deliberate, and perhaps evocative of wind-blown reeds or grasses native to Johnston’s hometown.
RJ412, Tea bowl, nuka glaze with iron slip and wax resist brushwork, Stoneware,
3.25 x 4.5 x 4.5”
Incorporating influences from his environment and journeys allow the works to carry a special connection to the artist and his experiences. The spoon forms originated in such a way. During one of his travels to South America, ancient grain scoops inspired Johnston’s development of this hand built shape. The tops of the slabs incorporate many of Johnston’s styles, including shells that were used to separate the pieces in his kiln, seams, and dividing lines that reference Barnett Newman’s “zips.” Meanwhile, the bottoms of the forms have incredibly architectural feet that add a contrasting harshness to subtly bowed pieces of clay.
RJ518, Double spoon form dish, copper glaze, Stoneware, 18.5 x 11.75 x 3.75”
RJ503, Spoon form plate, nuka glaze with iron slip and wax resist, Stoneware, 19.25 x 10.5 x 4.75”
Johnston’s works are a visual and intellectual delight. The more I look at his ceramic works, the more I can find connections in the surrounding world and my own experiences.