Centuries-old Japanese pottery technique shown in Raku: Origins, Impact and Contemporary Expression

December 4, 2006

TEMPE, Ariz. - The ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center presents a global perspective of contemporary ceramic artists using the ancient Japanese Raku firing technique in the exhibition Raku: Origins, Impact and Contemporary Expression, Jan. 13 – April 21, 2007. The opening reception Jan. 19, 6-8 p.m., includes a 7 p.m. gallery talk with exhibition guest curator Jim Romberg of the Eagleheart Center for Art and Inquiry.

The exhibition features 50 contemporary works of decorative vessels and expressive sculpture by Jim Romberg, Rick Hirsch and Paul Soldner (USA); Aline Favre and Fabienne Gioria (Switzerland); Tim Andrews and David Jones (UK); Jean Biagini (France); Ching-Yuan Chang (Taiwan); and Toshio Ohi (Japan). Jim Romberg, Canyon Moon, 2005. Raku-fired ceramic, 26” x 15” x 8”. Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Download Full Image

Raku ware marked an important point in the historical development of Japanese ceramics. With the formal recognition of Raku potters in the late 16th century, the Japanese artist-potter first emerged from the anonymity of the general craftsman. Raku tea bowls were much revered by tea masters for their simple forms and surfaces that emulated nature, such as rock formations, pools of water or grass patterns.

The Raku technique is characterized by low firing temperatures and the removal of works from the kiln while glowing hot, then submerged in either sawdust or straw which combust to achieve unique patterns on the clay?s surface. A number of American ceramists in the 1960s revived and adapted the technique to suit their personal aesthetic, with the use of a reduction chamber at the end of the Raku firing. This technique was introduced by artist Paul Soldner, who continues to conduct workshops at age 85.

"The Ceramics Research Center is pleased to present this stellar international survey of raku ceramics, augmented by the center's holdings of this technique," says Peter Held, ceramics curator for the ASU Art Museum. A workshop for high school art teachers is Jan. 20, 10 a.m. 1 p.m., including artist demonstrations and lesson plans, a gallery talk by Jim Romberg and a student art competition sponsored by the Tempe Festival of the Arts, March 30 - April 1, 2007. Space is limited. RSVP to Laura.Stewart@asu.edu, or call 480-965-2873 by Jan. 17, 2007.

Organized by the ASU Art Museum, this exhibition is guest-curated by Jim Romberg and is made possible in part through investments by the Eagleheart Center for Art and Inquiry, Ceramics Leaders of ASU (CLA) and Friends of the ASU Art Museum.

The ASU Art Museum, named "the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona" by Art in America, is part of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. Its Ceramics Research Center is located on the northeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call 480-965-2787 or visit the museum online at http://asuartmuseum.asu.edu.

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay 

Alternative fuel of the 21st century goes green

December 4, 2006

As anyone with a pool knows, algae can be quite pesky plants. While it’s not desirable to have it growing in your pool, ASU researchers Qiang Hu and Milton Sommerfeld are shedding a whole new light on the plant in the Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology (LARB) at the Polytechnic campus.

Even though algae can be a nuisance, these plants have multiple benefits to the environment that are sustainable, renewable and relatively inexpensive to produce. Algae have properties that make them great for many applications, according to Hu and Sommerfeld. Download Full Image

The duo has been able to take their combined 40-plus years of research with algae and apply it to use in air and water remediation, alternative fuels and animal feed. During that time, they have identified 100 to 200 algal species of the more than 1,500 they have studied that are hardy and potent for various uses from producing algal oils for biofuels to removing carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and nutrients from various wastewaters.

What makes algae so appealing for so many applications?

“They reproduce quickly, and unlike the cells found in a leaf, they don’t have unnecessary baggage. In other words, no roots and stems and they do not go dormant,” says Sommerfeld. “Algae have natural properties that allow them to grow quickly, with some species able to double 2 to 3 times in a day. That’s a good thing when you want to produce large quantities of algae.”

To grow mass quantities of algae, the researchers developed industrial photobioreactor technology that allows for an optimal growth environment for maximum production, according to Hu. “It’s basically an engineered device to enhance the natural process,” adds Sommerfeld.

What the plant and its cells are naturally producing makes them a valuable product, according to Hu. “For example, we have been able to identify one species of algae that synthesizes and accumulates large quantities of oils or lipids that could be a perfect alternative fuel for airplanes/jets because it releases far less air pollutants than petroleum-based fuels into the atmosphere,” says Hu.

The byproduct from harvesting the oil makes a healthy animal feed product or organic fertilizer as well. Through an anaerobic digestion or fermentation process, the byproduct can also be converted to methane or ethanol -- two other kinds of biofuels. So there is little waste associated with algal feedstock.

In addition to the use of the oil lipids, their research has been successful at removing waste nutrients from agricultural wastewaters through an algal filtration system, allowing for reuse of treated water. Currently they are applying the technology to other sources of wastewater, such as nitrate-contaminated groundwater, municipal wastewater and concentrated animal feeding operation wastewater. These research and development projects have been supported by the local industrial community, including Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service, along with state and federal grants.

The pair has 10 patent applications pending, and their work is attracting the attention of industry for commercialization purposes.

“Our algae-based biofuel technology is at a field pilot-scale demonstration stage and it is anticipated that it could reach the marketplace within three to four years,” says Hu.