Anyone remember Dorothy Braude Edinburg? Her collection of eighteenth-through-twentieth-century European drawings filled up five rooms at the Art Institute two years ago—and now we get to see her Korean and Chinese ceramics that date from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries. This Boston lady was quite the aesthete—and her choices reveal a taste for small and unusual shapes and patterns, including some ingenious marbled wares and miniature drinking horns—quite different from the rest of the Art Institute’s oriental collection. Most of these recent gifts will probably end up in the basement, but I suspect the small, Tang Dynasty, pear-shaped jar with splashes of cobalt blue glaze will end up on permanent display. (Why is the Tang inevitably the best?) Don’t forget to read the free, illustrated fourteen-page catalog that accompanies the exhibit and, while you’re there, walk over to Gallery 109 (the Ando room) for a fascinating comparison of contemporary with historic Japanese ceramics—especially the rough, loose, sculptural wabi-sabi aesthetic of Tsujimura Shiro (b. 1947) done in a variety of traditional styles (Ino, Shiga, and Shigaraki) side-by-side with pieces from earlier centuries. Also remarkable is a large, white, square porcelain bowl by Kato Tsubusa (b. 1962) with a translucent blue glaze that deliciously pools like water. Contemporary Japanese fine-art ceramics may seem strange or even bizarre, but they always seem quite comfortable with the space they inhabit—just like the exemplary pieces from the traditions they follow. (Chris Miller)
Through June 7, 2009 at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan.