Ceramics have always enjoyed a high standing in the history of Museum Folkwang. Indeed, shortly after the museum was founded it already exhibited ceramic works. Through until 1921 Karl Ernst Osthaus expanded the collection to include significant groups of ceramics from different cultural regions. There has always been a major focus on East Asian works. The exhibition Body to Body takes up this early strand in Museum Folkwang’s collecting and exhibiting activities: Selected works by Korean ceramic artist Young-Jae Lee (born 1951) will be shown in dialogue with items from the collection.
Since 1987 Young-Jae Lee has been director of Keramische Werkstatt Margaretenhöhe in Essen. Her works represent a melding of East and West, the traditional and the modern. With the series of Spinach Bowls on display here Lee alludes to the teacup, whose shape was influenced in 16th-century Japan by Korean eating and drinking bowls. Young-Jae Lee continues the story of the teacup by appropriating it under a new name.
The principles that inform Lee’s work, namely the use of appropriate materials, due functionality, a composition based on geometric shapes such as the circle or square, and her eschewal of any decor, not to mention the idea of producing in series, are ones shared with the design methods espoused by the Bauhaus. From the very beginning, tea sets were amongst the products produced in the ceramic workshop at the famous design college. One of the most famous objects created there was the Combination Teapot by Theodor Bogler. Japanese Bauhaus student Michiko Yamawaki has compared the Bauhaus’s appreciation for the functional and simple with the tea ceremony in her native country.
For the duration of the exhibition Young-Jae Lee’s Spinach Bowls will be used in a series of events. This creates a movement from one body to another – reflecting the exhibition title – namely, from the artist who shaped the vessel on the potter’s wheel back to our hands.
This presentation will be complemented by the exhibition Young-Jae Lee. Material to Form, which will take place simultaneously at the Mixing Plant at Zeche Zollverein. Both exhibitions are part of the Festival Try again. Fail again. Fail better – Impuls Bauhaus, an Art Festival hosted by the Folkwang University of the Arts