Saturday, March 29, 2014


Where: Sackler Gallery

When: through July 27, 2014

Although the title of this show is quite accurate - it's about jars - it doesn't really bring in the crowds in droves.  The idea of spending a lunch hour looking at jars doesn't really appeal to the average person, I'm willing to bet.  In addition, it's not close to the Chigusa exhibit, with which it is associated, so your only potential audience most likely won't see it.

And that's a pity, because, despite the above problems, this is a lovely collection of Chinese and Chinese-inspired storage jars.  As the wall notes explain, "The utilitarian storage jar is one of the most useful ceramics to have emerged from ancient Chinese kilns."  The idea that something utilitarian can also be beautiful is familiar to me from my reading about the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain and the US at the turn of the 20th century.  These jars, which are hundreds of years older than that, embody this spirit.  The Chinese created storage jars in order to export their wares to neighboring countries.  Once they had fulfilled their job as delivery mechanisms, they were then reused by the recipients and became valued in and of themselves.  Chigusa, the focus of the exhibit on Japanese tea culture, was just such a storage jar.

In Japan and Southeast Asia, local potters replicated the Chinese design, as it was so popular.  It is a wonderful shape, wide at the top and more narrow at the bottom.  It reminded me of the exhibit I'd seen at the Castle, about stamps honoring great American product designs of the 20th century.  If something looks good while working well, it's going to be a commercial success.

I think my favorite of the ten jars on display was one from Vietnam.  It had a reddish color, caused by calcium interacting with the iron in the clay.  Whatever the science behind it, it was an interesting and lovely color.

Verdict: Don't overlook this little show on the bottom floor of the Sackler.  You can easily add it on to a visit to Chigusa, which is on the first floor.

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