Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Free Sunday at the Asian

The first Sunday of every month at the Asian Art Museum features free admission, and now that the Terracotta Warriors have gone home to China, the crowds have dwindled too.

On the second floor, just off the escalator, the Japanese basket room has a small but sensational exhibit dedicated to The Lineage of Hayakawa Shokosai, the first bamboo artist to sign his work in the 19th century. The above Portable Basket for Tea Utensils from 1883 looks like it could be sold at Gump's today.

The Shokosai name was handed down to a single, designated heir over the next two centuries, ending with Japanese "National Living Treasure" Hayakawa Shokosai V (1932-2011) whose Flower Basket from 1997 is pictured above.

In order to mitigate light damage, much of the deep Asian Art Museum permanent collection is rotated approximately every six months, so there are newly installed Japanese screens nearby...

...along with an exhibit of a dozen beautiful early 20th century prints by Torii Kotonda (1900-1976), including the 1929 Snow above.

In a small, square room dedicated to special exhibits that I call the Korean Strait since it divides the Japanese and Korean wings at the museum, another attempt at forging a younger, hipper identity for the institution is taking place. Proximities is the overarching title of three successive exhibitions curated by local "writer, critic, curator, and educator" Glen Helfland. It could just as accurately though more crudely be called Honkies and Gringos and a Few Asian Hyphenates Respond to the Question: what is Asia.

Part I: What Time Is It There runs through July, to be followed by Part 2: Knowing Me, Knowing You from October through December, and the final installment Import/Export December through next February. Helfland was given an impossible task, to reduce a response to "what is Asia?" into a single, small exhibit room, so he can't really be blamed for the skimpy content and unconscious condescension of much of the work, including a wall of primitive drawings and paintings of bottles, vases, rocks and branches by Tucker Nichols above.

Andrew Witrak's contribution, Trouble in Paradise #2, involves a wide-screen TV showing screen captures from a four-star resort in Bali next to a styrofoam mattress obsessively covered with tropical cocktail paper umbrellas. The piece is insulting in its view of Asia as nothing more than a tropical resort for white people while being formally very beautiful, so in that sense it's a success.

In the Korean wing next door, there is a newly reinstalled Guardian King of the West, painted for the Asian Art Museum's celebration of its move to the Civic Center a decade ago from Golden Gate Park. It was created by a Korean nun named Jae-u, and maybe it will help keep the Foreign Demons at bay.


Nancy Ewart said...

I don't "get" the Proximities show either but have to give the Asian brownie points for trying. But I coveted that Demon King and the baskets are always amazing works of art.

Hattie said...

That print of a woman, sensitive, intelligent, a little older than very young, is touching.
The garish offerings did not do much for me, and I don't think I would be able to find much nice to say about them.