Post-cute: Beyond craft and cool Japan

Plan Author

  • Henry Robinson, 2019

Fields of Concentration

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Rebecca Morgan, Keene State College


Post-cute is a term that describes contemporary Japanese ceramics that go beyond the craft of ceramics from Mingei and the fine art, “cool Japan” of Superflat, two well-known Japanese art movements. This new sculpture blurs the lines between craft and fine art, removes the distinction between high and low art in terms of subject matter, and engages with the history and traditions of the ceramic medium in fresh, new ways. This Plan is composed of a paper describing the work of four contemporary Japanese ceramicists and proposing a theory of Japanese modern art, as well as a show of my own work. The principles of Post-cute I describe are those that I ascribe to myself. The aesthetic qualities, working practice, and philosophical approach of these four artists speak to my choices in clay.


I believe the Fukushima disaster made it apparent that earnestness was direly needed in contemporary art. Japan had arrived at what I call Post-cute. Post-cute being the foregoing of irreverence and the commercial, not deleting popular culture or rebellion completely, but no longer being the fixation and propeller of contemporary art. Post-cute is less concerned with the art world generally, and whether art is fine art, decorative, craft, highbrow, or lowbrow, though not entirely inconsequential, is less important in contemporary Japanese artists defining themselves as artists and categorizing their art. The work is not caught in the pretension and flatness of being cute. Even if there are superficial elements, earnestness is present.

My work portrays the melancholia and momentary sublimities of being human. The themes of relationships, sexuality, death, isolation, and depression all play a role in my work. These themes are manifested using the human body as a starting point. This forms the base of all the characters in the accumulated contemporary pantheon. The bodies bare the stresses and realities of a human life, reflecting the interior psycho-emotional landscape on their surfaces. These interior states manifest through distension, perversion, and referential features like abdominal stitches, grim tattoos, partially amputated limbs, doll-like bodies, cartoon-like features, and anthropomorphic elements.


I mostly recall a feeling of excitement at developing my ideas and seeing them reach a completed state. It wasn’t all as climactic as I thought it would be, but deeply satisfying. The most interesting part of my plan is definitely the ceramic sculptures I made. There is still so much to discover and evolve with that.

I’ve always had an interest in East Asian art. Through personal research and research for courses I learned about the contemporary art movement, Superflat, coming out of Japan. From there I took off with that and followed along with artists that interested me and intersected with the movement. Every course directly informed my plan work, gave a dense background to work from, or demanded a new perspective and methodology that allowed me to think more astutely about my Plan work than I otherwise would have.

I wish to be a practicing artist when I leave school. My Plan was a vital first step. I would also like to keep writing on art, perhaps I will even further develop my Plan paper. Despite it being in a finished state, the topic is by no means a closed book at this point. Additionally, I plan to make a graphic novel disjointedly meditating on my experiences at Marlboro. Plan really showed I have the ability to follow through on a big project.