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.


irreducible said...

I saw that exhibit today. I like it.

But, for the collection of the museum,
I am really skeptical. Some ceramic in the museum do not look right. I searched on line and found that it is really a problem of that museum.

Peteykins said...

Very nice! I'm surprised --very surprised, actually-- that they allowed photography in the exhibit.

Civic Center said...

Dear Princess: They don't allow photography at the Kyoto exhibit, and there are plenty of security guards milling around to make sure that you don't. So those two photos from the exhibit are actually not from me, they're from Deep Shutter and were secretly passed on to Civic Center. As long as you don't use a flash, the rest of the permanent collection is freely photographable.

Dear Irreducible: Are you implying that that some of the pieces in the permanent collection are fake? That can't be! The Chicago real estate gangster Avery Brundage had minions prowling through Asia for decades for all those treasures.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,
That alternate reality you might have been remembering was a Chinese poets' paradise called Lan Ting, the Orchid Pavilion, where goblets of sake floated downstream, through the gardens. Wang Usi-chih composed this preface for a collection of poems written at the Legendary Lan Ting gathering in 353 A.D. "...We drank and chanted, enough to fully pour out our feelings. That day, bright sun and clear air. Winds are tuneful. We looked up: immense, the universe! We looked down, so full, thing and things! Therefore, let the eyes go on an excursion, let the bosom gallop, enough to exhaust the pleasure of sight and hearing. Truly a joy this occasion" (translation Wai-lim Yip)

irreducible said...

Hi Mikey:

I explained my observation on by blog.

irreducible said...

I read your comment. I think you are right.