The World in a Jar: King Houndekpinkou at Vallois America

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Clay is mud, mud is earth, and the earth, as we know it, was formed by fire. Although it’s unlikely you’ll be picturing this while holding your morning coffee mug, for ceramist King Houndekpinkou, the link between earth, clay, and creation is hard to escape.

Emerald Green Sculptural Vase, 2017. © 2017 King HOUNDEKPINKOU

As such, the twenty pieces in Houndekpinkou’s new exhibition, Time on Earth, stand as terrestrial studies. Surfaces recall soil, rich with life, and fallen asteroid fragments—a likeness helped along by volcanic glazes and hints of fired gold. What’s inside matters as well. Houndekpinkou blends earth from Japan, Africa, and Europe, merging the ceramist’s global heritage and his worldview. “Just like clay is everywhere, I try to go everywhere,” he says.

Born and based in Paris, Houndekpinkou’s roots lie in the African Republic of Benin. He didn’t start out in ceramics—he says it found him. “I felt something when I saw it. It was like magic,” the ceramist explains, retelling the story of discovering clay on his first trip to Japan at the age of twenty-four. Now thirty, Houndekpinkou continues to visit Japan each year, mentored by the Bizen potter Toshiaki Shibuta.

“Time on Earth” by Alex Huanfa Cheng. © 2017 Alex HUANFA CHENG

Likewise, clay led Houndekpinkou back to Benin. Often asked early in his career how pots were made in West Africa, Houndekpinkou realized he didn’t know. An artist residency in the Republic soon followed, with one of the results shown in Time on Earth.

Fitting the worldly reach of the pieces themselves, the exhibition crosses two continents, on view at Vallois America in Manhattan and then Vallois in Paris until July 29th.

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Yellow Sculptural Vase with Gilding, 2016. © 2017 King HOUNDEKPINKOU

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