Ryo Toyonaga’s recent survey curated by Midori Yamamura and designed by Yumi Kori at the Vilcek Foundation in New York City (March 12-May 15, 2009) summarized nearly twenty years of work in ceramics and other media. For our purposes, we will concentrate on Toyonaga’s evolution as a ceramic sculptor. This is helpful, especially now, since, like many other ceramic artists recently (Frank Boyden, Peter Voulkos, Jim Leedy, Patti Warashina, Michael Lucero, etc.), Toyonaga is switching almost exclusively to bronze and aluminum, cast at the legendary Tallix Foundry in Beacon, New York, near his studio in Garrison, New York, in the Hudson River Valley. It is more important than ever to treat his ceramic work to date as a finite system, even a closed book.
The dozen or so stained earthenware sculptures revolved around human heads on pedestal-posts or wall-mounted and clusters of bird beaks (some of which were raku-fired) also mounted on the wall. The results were uniformly dark, foreboding, and very promising.