Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Monster Japanese Screens
At the Asian Art Museum, a special exhibit opened this month called "Traditions Unbound: Groundbreaking Painters of 18th-Century Kyoto."
Kenneth Baker, the art critic for the "San Francisco Chronicle" gave the show a rave review and tried to explain why the paintings on view were "groundbreaking," with limited success. Click here for the full review.
The show has been divided into two parts with Part One on view through January 8th and Part Two from January 11th through February 26th. Though the official explanation is that the pieces are insanely valuable and delicate, so they can only be shown for a certain amount of time, the truth seems to be that they just ran out of room. The museum really should consider remodeling the first floor so they would have more gallery space for big touring shows, and less soaring hotel lobby/gift shop space.
Almost all of the Kyoto "paintings" are on gigantic folding screens that sometimes run the length of a 40-foot wall.
They are wonderful to look at, though the reflecting glass enclosing them gets annoying. The ideal experience would be to lay down on a Japanese mat, sipping on sake, while surrounded by these beautiful screens. Oh well, in an alternate universe somewhere.
On the second floor, where the rotating permanent collection resides, there were more monster screens in the Japan section of the museum.
Most of these were older than the Kyoto screens by 100 to 200 years.
The stables was definitely one of my favorites...
...as was the landscape...
...with the red sun.
In the Korea section of the museum, past this wall-size modern painting of a sacred mountain in North Korea...
...was my favorite monster screen.
It was from the 19th century and belonged to a ruler who longed for his days of scholarship and the accoutrements of the trade.
Can you imagine an American politician with the equivalent? I can't.