Lucian Moriyama is an artist born in Honolulu in 1991. He is also a writer. He works in sculpture, installation, and painting. The pieces of particular interest in this artist’s career are Red-figure Lekythos (2020) and Delft-esque Lekythos (2020), both pigmented plaster sculptures. These two sculptures belong to Lucian Moriyama’s Passages series, which questions the technique of plaster through the prism of societies. He questions the history of art and the practice of ceramics throughout the world and time, particularly through the prism of cultural appropriation. The two vases we are studying today are particularly eloquent in this regard.
The first one called Red-figure Lekythos, is a black vase with a red figure. This is not by chance, as the sculptor is taking up an extremely important artistic trend in ancient Greek art: red-figure ceramics on black backgrounds, which developed in Greece around 530 BC. These ceramics were created with stylized figures, painted in negative, surrounded by black and incised, a technique used by Moriyama for his plasterwork. This technique developed throughout the Greek basin, even if it originated in Athens. They mainly show passages from ancient myths such as the Pantheon of Greek deities, or heroic deeds. Lucian Moriyama’s ceramics feature two silhouettes of sculptors. He creates a mise en abyme by repeating the motif of his vase inside his vase, so that he represents himself in a piece inspired by the oldest master ceramists. Through this gesture, he insinuates how easy it is to appropriate a culture.
However, the culture of ancient Greece is not the only one taken up by the sculptor. On the work we have just seen, fine breaks are spread out. This is also the case for the second Delft-esque work Lekythos. This vase also responds to the question of its fragility and its breaking point exceeded, then reversed. It also takes up here one of the traditional forms of the ancient Greek vases. However, what interests us here is the use of repair, borrowed from Japanese kintsugi. This technique is based on the idea that broken objects should not be thrown away, but rather that their cracks should be sublimated by rehabilitating them with finesse. The masters of this art use gold to magnify the breaks of the object by repairing it. Not only does it become more beautiful but it also bears the traces of its life.
Thus, Lucian Moriyama takes up in his works the great principles of art, combining them and disguising them and questioning this way of doing through his works. He questions the status of the artist and his production through this series of ceramics.