NORMAN — A small but most enjoyable show — like a hot cup of tea on a cold day — is on view on the ground floor of the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Works in the “Tea and Immortality: Chinese Yixing Teapots” show are contemporary but have a timeless, exquisite, exotic feel, reflecting the area's ceramics traditions since the 14th century.
They are from the James T. Bialac Collection that was given to the Phoenix Art Museum. The Arizona museum organized the exhibit of Chinese teapots. A year ago, Bialac gave a major gift of American Indian art to the OU museum.
A rounded buff stoneware “Dragon teapot bearing (a) pearl,” attributed to Zhou Dingfang, eloquently testifies to the importance of dragons as symbols of “masculinity, fertility and imperial power” in China.
The body of a graceful, long-necked duck feeding a fish to a duckling sup
A baby fish adopts a playful pose on its back atop a serendipitous 1994 buff stoneware teapot by Zhongguo Yizzan, while three frogs have fun on a teapot pretending to be a rock by Jinzhi. Equally irresistible are a squat brown stoneware “Three-legged-toad teapot” by Fan Aifen, and a red stoneware, defensively bristling “Hedgehog teapot” by Ye Qing.
The same might be said of a nearly funky dark green stoneware “Lotus teapot with five frogs (including one inside it),” attributed to Jiang Rong.
Another outstanding display case pleasantly surprises us with floral, vegetable or mineral rather than animal teapots, in the shapes of a pumpkin, a mango, a pineapple, a chrysanthemum and lotus plants.
Bringing the human figure into the artistic equation are a purplish brown stoneware “Teapot containing a female torso” by Ye Qing, and a buff stoneware teapot of a cowherd lying on the back of a water buffalo.
Exaggerated streamlining and swirling surface decoration give a very modern feel to a “Mythical-bird” teapot by an unknown contemporary Chinese artist. Also very modern are a simple but intricate “Square teapot with two compartments” by Chen Haosheng, and an austere 2000 black stoneware “Tall cylindrical teapot with four cups” by Jin Zhi.
A black stoneware “Slanted teapot” by Yu Yufang and a brown stoneware “Round teapot decorated with (a) tea tray” by Wang Songhuang are on display with nine tiny anonymous teapots in a final case.
The exhibit is highly recommended during its run.
— John Brandenburg