With primordial muck very much on my mind, I went to see a ceramics show when I got back to town. There are certain things I always wonder about: how did anyone ever first get the idea to slap mud into a pleasing, useful shape, and bake it, to make it watertight? And when did functional mud become decorative earth?

I could barely get to the Korean ceramics show at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, so caught up was I by some of the pottery made by contemporary artists from other countries as well. This vessel by Ogawa Machiko (Japanese, born 1946) is porcelainous stoneware with a glass glaze.

Entrancing. That limpid blue, like a glacial lake frozen, rimmed with thick, gritty, heavy cracked stoneware--such tension captured, so simply.

I'm going to share other photographs of some of the vessels that caught my eye. The show opens with pieces by Meekyoung Shin, a Korean artist born in 1967. These translucent vessels look like ancient glass, and are made of varnished soap. Soap?

Ceramics? Classic ceramic shapes, I suppose. Anti-ceramics: vessels that would melt if made to carry water. A potter uses soap to scrub away the earth on her hands. Curation is not always pure of form--or about the obvious--and that's what makes for a provocative show.

A small child could curl up and nap inside this jar by Lee HunChung, also born in 1967--I love the asymmetry of this wheel thrown vessel with its rough edge, and as well the vibrant smudges of purple and red that come of trace amounts of copper in the glaze.

My note-taking was not quite up to snuff so i cannot tell you who made the three-sided piece.

But it made me think that there is no end to the human imagination....

...as did this piece, with its bristling armor. I had to read the tag several times to be sure I got it right: Ritual vessel, approx. 1500-1525. But it looks so modern--and so Bloomsbury as well.

These shapes slowed me up--they are such beautiful reclaimed heaps of broken, imperfect, abandoned, reclaimed and re-pieced vessels, like a Victorian crazy quilt....made by Yeesookyung (Korean, born 1963).

If you are in San Francisco try to see this show before it closes on January 8. And if you can't get there, I'm glad I was able to share the show with you!

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