Daisosho Los Angeles Lecture and Raku Exhibit

Reported by Iris Friedlander, New York

Sunday May 24th - Bing Theatre
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

On a sunny afternoon at the downtown Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
Dr. Genshitsu Sen, 15th Grand Master of Urasenke, presented an offertory
Tea (kencha-shiki); followed by his 40-minute lecture/demonstration, and a
dedicatory Tea. These events, free and open to the public, began at 1 pm,
and ran over 2 hours. They were held in conjunction with the extraordinary
exhibition, "Raku: The Cosmos in a Tea Bowl", in the museum's Pavilion for Japanese Art.
The 600-seat auditorium was packed.
Special guests in the audience included Kyoto potter,
Raku Atsundo, 34-year old son of Raku Kichizaemon XV.
Dr. Robert T. Singer, Curator and Head of Japanese Art at LACMA, opened
the program with a charming musical prelude--Japanese ladies performed
duets on koto and harp, of the traditional melody "Sakura", followed by
Irving Berlin's "America".
Daisosho, looking fit and spry at 92 years, presented a ryurei-style offertory Tea,
in a somber, slow-paced temae. Driven by his intense desire to contribute to
the realization of global peace, he has devoted his life to spreading Chado,
the Way of Tea, around the world. Fittingly, this Tea commemorated the end
of World War II in 1945.
His on-stage hanging scroll, "Wa Kei Sei Jaku", represent Chado's four key
principles: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.
Daisosho then prepared Koicha for 10 dignitaries, including Consul General
Harry H. Horinouchi, who spoke briefly, Mrs. Horinouchi, Dr. Glenn T. Webb, and others.
His talk wove together threads about Tea, Raku, and his personal experiences,
which were expertly translated by Gretchen Mittwer. Daisosho's smile lit
up the large room, as he related that his first tea lesson from his father,
Tantansai, began on the 6th day of the 6th month of his 6th year.
To accommodate his small hands, Raku Seinyu XIII (1887~1944)
was commissioned to make a child-size chawan. This was his first
experience with Raku ware--86 years ago! He explained that in Chanoyu
the pottery hierarchy is: ichi Raku,ni Hagi, san Karatsu.
We were reminded that the spectacular Raku exhibit next door was a unique event.
Dr. Singer had been planning the show and Daisosho's visit for five years,
in celebration of LACMA's 50th anniversary. He went to Japan to personally
request from Daisosho the loan of 'Tarobo' by Chojiro I (?~1589).
Another temae demonstrating usucha was given for three guests.
The shokyaku was Christy Soei Bartlett, Director, Urasenke Foundation San Francisco.
After this wondrous program, I chatted briefly with Raku Atsundo,
who is now closely studying the pottery of his 16th century ancestor, Chojiro I.
How lucky he is!

March 29-June 7, 2015
Pavilion for Japanese Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

The exhibition was held in the fantastical Pavilion for Japanese Art,
designed by architect Bruce Goff (1904~1982). Built in 1988, it sits
opposite the La Brea Tar Pits, and looks like nothing else! The
exterior features greenish stone-studded round towers, curved white
horn-like roof elements, windows that seem to be accordion-folded
paper shoji screens.
The interior winds up--or down-- ramps, where tokonoma alcoves
separate artworks for focused viewing, above grey-black Japanese river stones.
The top floor features an oculus skylight.
Set in this exciting, organic space were 100 Raku masterpieces, with examples
from all 15 generations. For the first time on public view, works by the next
generation master potter, young Raku Atsundo--eight chawan in traditional forms.
In addition to more than 50 chawan, there were incense burners (koro)
and containers (kogo), food utensils, and water jars ( mizusashi), all essential
for use in Chado. They ranged from somber to playful.
A short video featured Raku Kichizaemon XV at the Kyoto kilns, showing the
various stages of this ancient technique, dating to his ancestor,
roof-tile maker, Chojiro I (died 1589.) Sen no Rikyu commissioned him to
make low-fire tea bowls. The current master uses clay set aside 90 years ago by his
great-grandfather, Raku Konyu XII.
One precious example, on special loan from Daisosho and the Urasenke Foundation,
is Chojiro's red bowl 'Tarobo', a Registered Important Cultural Property (ICP).
The exhibition was co-organized by LACMA, the sublime Raku Museum in Kyoto,
and the Japan Foundation.
Although the show is now closed, there is an excellent new 344-page volume in English,
"Raku: A Legacy of Japanese Tea Ceramics" ($60), with many fine color illustrations
and informative text, published by the Raku Museum.
Biographies of each Raku family master potter and his seals are included.
LACMA is the only U.S. venue; the show continues at the Hermitage
Museum in St. Petersburg (July 11-September 6, 2015); and The Pushkin Museum
of Fine Arts in Moscow (September 22-November 15, 2015). Russian Midorikai
graduates, you're in for a treat!
Of course, in Kyoto you can visit the small tranquil, elegant Raku Museum,
established 1978, next door to the Raku family home and workshop.
There are a total of four seasonal exhibits at the Raku Museum.
For further details check raku-yaki.or.jp
Raku translates as ' bliss' or ' joy'.