Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Phantoms of Asia 2: Mixing It Up

The Asian Art Museum, as part of its attempt to rebrand itself, has undertaken an ambitious attempt to rethink the museum, with a contemporary art exhibit called Phantoms of Asia matched up with older pieces from the permanent collection.

The juxtapositions mostly work out quite well.

There are video and installation components, including Death Class above, a very disturbing video by the Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook lecturing a room of actual cadavers about the meaning of death.

Next door in the North Court there's a striking installation of ghostly soldiers playing on instruments, Anno Domini, by Indonesian artist Jompot.

Around the corner is Untitled I (Peacock with Missiles) by the Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman that has its own surreal charm.

Best of all, this show reflecting on Asian cosmologies has been installed throughout the entire museum, escaping the usual touring show ghetto of three boxy rooms in the North Court. Check out the Indian wing on the third floor where The Cult of Appearance III above by Janneth Parda is situated.

So is Absence of God VII by Raqib Shaw in all its glittered, rhinestone glory.

The contemporary art is not only literally from all over the map, but like any contemporary group show, there are highlights and stinkers. The biggest surprise is how many of the older pieces, shown in this context, look so bizarrely contemporary, like the Cosmological Painting from India from approximately 1750-1850 that scholars haven't even begun to figure out. In a strange way, it felt like one of the most modern pieces in the whole show.

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