Making of an Exhibition: Kimono in the 20th Century

March 16, 2012

Haori (short jacket)As we’ve mentioned before, a lot of hard work goes into conceptualizing and executing an exhibition. But one aspect often gets overlooked: the exhibition design. Here at Pacific Asia Museum, John Cline takes the curatorial vision of an exhibition and turns it into a three-dimensional display that showcases objects and ideas in a visitor-friendly way. “Ideally, the design and the show itself evolve together,” John said. “I start with a discussion with the curator well in advance, and help them visualize their concept.” Since he’s often working on two or three shows at any given point, he has a lot of ideas to keep straight.

Right now, John and the curatorial department are working on Kimono in the 20th Century, opening March 30. Because the subject is textiles, the three-dimensional subject poses specific challenges. Should the kimono be hung so the visitor can get the full effect of the design, or should it be dressed on a mannequin as it was intended to be worn? For those we dress on mannequins, how do we ensure accuracy? In addition, textiles are particularly light-sensitive. John plans to address that problem with a combination of in-case fiber optic lighting and track lighting, while also taking into account the planned rotation of the exhibition. Because the show continues for a full year, many pieces will change halfway through to limit exposure to light and to give visitors the opportunity to see a wider range of our kimono collection. John also takes this rotation into account when designing the exhibition– the cases need to accommodate both sets of objects!

One fun challenge has been the presentation of the kimono accessories. Because these kimono are so striking, they could easily take away from the details of the smaller objects in the exhibition. While the plans are still being finalized, John has sketched out small platforms (at right) for the shoes to make them more prominent and the details easier to see.

Make sure to catch BOTH rotations throughout the year, and see how John and the rest of the curatorial team displayed these gorgeous pieces to their full advantage. Also, mark your calendars for the wide range of programs accompanying the exhibition– from Curator’s Tours to Free Family Festivals, there will be something for everyone! ~CM


Encounters at the Pasadena Art Museum

March 7, 2012

As you already know, our building was once home to the Pasadena Art Museum. But did you know the institution was home to more than great visual art?

The Encounters Series, held at the Pasadena Art Museum and Caltech from 1964 to 1973, was neither a lecture series nor a concert series. Director Lenard Stein brought nearly every important contemporary composer to Pasadena through this series, including John Cage, Harry Partch, and Arnold Schoenberg. In 1965, the Encounters season opened with a legendary evening as Cage was interviewed by David Tudor. Cage would again appear in the 1969 season, the first season in the Pasadena Art Museum’s new building on Colorado.

Composer John Cage

John Cage was a leading figure in American postwar avant-garde music, and is perhaps most famous for his piece 4’33”, which is performed by the musicians simply being present for four minutes and 33 seconds, allowing  ambient sounds to become the score. Many of Cage’s works incorporate stretches of time like this, along with other concepts like the prepared piano (in which the piano’s strings or hammers would be modified to produce new sounds) or the use of nontraditional percussion with objects like branches or pebbles. His work was heavily influenced by the idea of chance after he was given a copy of the I Ching, the Chinese classic, when it was first translated into English in the early 1950s. This was not the only Asian influence on his work; in the 1940s his exchanges with an Indian musician and the increasing profile of Buddhism in the U.S. led him to see music as an observation of one’s surroundings and nature, rather than an attempt to alter or control them.

The musicians of Southwest Chamber Music

Cage was born in 1912, making this his centannial year (he died in 1992). In celebration, Southwest Chamber Music is presenting a series of performances of his work which began this past weekend. This Sunday, March 11, Southwest Chamber Music will come to Pacific Asia Museum and perform pieces including Branches and Radio Music. Pacific Asia Museum members enjoy discounted tickets, which can be purchased at or at the door. ~CM