Elias Martin is the director of Floating World Gallery and Gallery FW in Chicago with over 15 years experience in the industry. He has collected modern and contemporary Japanese art for over 17 years.
Q: What initially drew you to Japanese contemporary?
A: I was captivated by the way contemporary Japanese artists draw upon their rich artistic tradition and produce work in innovative and revolutionary ways.
Q: Who are some of your favorite Japanese artists today that have reinterpreted age-old media and art forms?
A: There are many, but I’m particularly fond of Sueharu Fukami. Using age-old slip cast techniques with a pale blue celadon glaze, a type of glaze originally imported from China and Korea hundreds of years ago, Fukami creates gracefully subtle porcelain sculptures.
Unlike utilitarian cups and bowls produced with these materials, he reveals in his sculptures the “space” that lies beyond the supple curves and sharp silhouettes of his abstract porcelain works. The triumphant arches and his starkly minimal forms represent what cannot be superficially seen: a perpetual circularity of life and the continuity of space itself.
Fukami’s conceptual and deeply contemplative ceramics have shed all preconceived dependencies on the notion of functionality, and as eloquent displays of art for art’s sake, stand alone to remind the viewer that perfection in porcelain can be conveyed by soaring forms far removed from traditionalism.
Q: What will you be exhibiting and why do you think NYC audiences will be receptive?
A: New Yorkers are certainly known for supporting the avant-garde and possessing a sophisticated sensibility. Our exhibition will feature challenging contemporary works in ceramic, glass, and metal, as well as paintings; all are unapologetic in their innovation and exhibit a refinement for which the Japanese are well-known.
In sculpture we will feature the copper-enameled work of Naoki Takeyama who brilliantly innovates the classic Shippo-Yaki (cloisonné) technique and infuses his creations with an elegant modernity reminiscent of 1960s pop art and 1980s Japanese haute couture fashion.
The exhibition will also include works by other leading contemporary Japanese sculptors such as my favorite, Sueharu Fukami as well as by Niyoko Ikuta, Harumi Nakashima, and others. Of particular note is Fukami’s undisputed masterpiece, “Kitsu,” a towering ceramic sculpture from an edition of eight, which is currently on display in the Japanese art wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Complementing our diverse sculptures, we show a selection of Japanese post-war abstract paintings from the Gutai School–Japan’s painting avant-garde. I believe our works will be right at home in the city.
Q: What do you look for in the artists you represent, and how is your current group similar to or different from each other?
A: We look for artists who produce aesthetically stunning works with a mastery of their respective medium and the ability to revolutionize their genres. Our current group of artists is similar in that their work is highly individualistic—paying tribute to their own voices, which leads to an elegant variety.
Q: What are the trends and projections in the Japanese art market?
A: With the increasing international attention to and demand for contemporary art, our artists have taken on the task of creating art that is both challenging and aesthetically satisfying. As collectors seek work that both engages on first sight and satisfies a need for stellar technical and artistic skill, they will gravitate toward Japanese contemporary art. I believe the genre will continue to attract a growing and enthusiastic global pool of collectors.