Shinichi Sawada clay figures on view on Charlotte

The Mint Museum, in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, presents the first solo exhibition in the United States for Japanese contemporary artist Shinichi Sawada (born 1982). Opening April 27 at The Mint Museum, Shinichi Sawada: Agents of Clay features a captivating collection of Sawada’s mesmerizing clay figures that blur the boundaries between reality and imagination.

The exhibition, co-curated by Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of Contemporary Art at The Mint Museum, and Lisa Melandri, executive director at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, features 30 of Sawada’s sculptures created over the past decade. The ceramic works are a fusion of features from mammals, fish, birds, insects, and the artist’s own imaginative creations. The intricate works of art often boast multiple faces, an abundance of eyes, and intricate patterns of incised lines, bumps, horns, and scales.

“From their enchanting faces and mesmerizing surfaces to the alluring tactile nature, Shinichi Sawada’s sculptures inspire you to start drawing the things that live in your mind and make you ache to pound and twist some clay, which is such a cathartic medium for internal release,” says Sudul Edwards.

Drawing inspiration from the millennia-old tradition of wood-burning Shigaraki kilns and Japanese imagery, Sawada’s creations embody his environment — from the history of Japanese figuration to the mountainous region where he resides. Each sculpture is fired consistently for three days and three nights, and the oven takes a week to cool before the pieces are removed. Depending on where the pieces were placed in the kiln determines the gray, black, or red color of each piece, making each genuinely unique.

Shinichi Sawada: Agents of Clay is on view April 27–August 11, 2024 at The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Following the exhibition at the Mint, the exhibition will be on view at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis September 6, 2024-February 9, 2025.

About Shinichi Sawada

Shinichi Sawada’s artistic training began in 2000 through the Nakayoshi Fukushikai Welfare Association through a program aimed at assisting neurodivergent individuals in finding employment and fostering independence.

Sawada, who is autistic, divides his time between the ceramic studio and the organization’s bakery, working in the ceramic studio twice a week.

Ticket Information  

The Mint Museum exhibition is free for members and children ages 4 and younger; $15 for adults; $10 for seniors ages 65 and older; $10 for college students with ID; and $6 for youth ages 5–17. Admission is free 5-9 PM on Wednesdays. 

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