This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: April 29-May 5

April 29, 2013

garden photos 092We’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Spring has Sprung: Our monthly free Silk Road Storytime series continues on Saturday, May 4 at 10:30 a.m. Join storyteller Sunny Stevenson to celebrate gardens with springtime stories from across Asia. Plus, make your own mini-garden and enjoy some Asian snacks.

Shop ’till you Drop: Member Appreciation Days run from Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5. Members receive 20% off regularly-priced merchandise in the Pacific Asia Museum store, and enjoy free admission and discounts at other institutions around Southern California.

Coming Up: May’s Art and Coffee event on Friday, May 10 at 3 p.m. spotlights the stunning work of Japanese artist Takashi Tomo-oka, now on view in our galleries.


Workin’ in the Garden

April 26, 2013

In honor of Arbor Day and National Volunteer Week, we’re bringing back this post originally published on August 9, 2012. We’re proud of our beautiful courtyard, the flourishing trees within it, and the volunteers who make it all possible! A note: since this was published, our Korean Gallery has opened to rave reviews! You can learn more about it here and here.

As our curatorial team is hard at work renovating the new Korean Gallery, another group of staff and volunteers are also restoring and maintaining our courtyard. For several months a dedicated group of staff, trustees, docents and volunteers have done weekly gardening maintenance and are working toward a comprehensive knowledge of the various plants and other features of our courtyard. In addition, restoration of the roundel, the beautiful doors and other features has been a top priority.

As this group does the essential work of keeping our garden in good shape, they’re also learning. With the help of guest experts from local gardens and nurseries, they hope to identify every plant and research its cultural connections. For example, after identifying the camellia japonica, the group found that the seed pods of the tree have historically been ground up and applied to the face as a beauty treatment in Japan. Today, essential oils and other extracts from the plant are still used in beauty products. Learning not only about the plants but also their cultural significance will help the museum share even more about Asian culture with our visitors.

We’ve also brought in specialists to return our big blue doors at the entrance to the courtyard to their former glory. Longtime supporters Robert and Susan Bishop have generously funded the effort to inspect and restore these “Doors to Education.” Made of wood and wrapped in tin, the doors are original to the building (built in 1926!) and have weathered quite a bit. To prevent the wood from rotting, our specialist Mike had to expose it first– he cut through the tin and pulled it off to apply a resin to the wood itself. He then fitted a new sheet of tin onto the door and painted it over to match the original color. There’s still more work to be done on the opposite door and on the iron metalwork, but we’re taking great steps to preserve our building for future generations.

Interested in learning more? We can always use more volunteers Tuesday morning when our gardening group meets to maintain the grounds and do research. Check out our website and get involved! ~CM

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: April 22-28

April 22, 2013

IMG_0100BWe’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Now open: Our newest exhibition Takashi Tomo-oka runs through July 28. Learn more about the artist and his influences in this recent post.

Authors on Asia: On Sunday, April 28, award-winning historian and journalist William Dalrymple will speak on his masterful account of the infamous First Anglo-Afghan War in his book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, drawing striking similarities between the West’s first disastrous entanglement with Afghanistan and the situation today. With access to newly discovered primary sources from archives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and India—including a series of previously untranslated Afghan epic poems and biographies—the author gives us the most immediate and comprehensive account yet of the spectacular first battle for Afghanistan. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Light refreshments. RSVPs strongly suggested to the Museum Store at 626-449-2742 x 20.

Looking ahead: Limited spaces are still available in our Chinese Flower Arranging five-week class with master Rosa Zee beginning Friday, May 3. Students should supply own garden scissors, all other materials provided. Series is $125 for members, $150 for non-members. Advance registration required, visit the Pacific Asia Museum front desk or call 626-449-2742 x 31.

Our ongoing classes also continue, including Chinese brush painting and calligraphy, Hawaiian music, tai chi and yoga.

The “Absolute Beauty” of Takashi Tomo-oka

April 18, 2013

Magnolia 2, 2011, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

Tomorrow, April 19, we’re opening our second new exhibition this month: Takashi Tomo-oka. In this exhibition, artist Takashi Tomo-oka combines contemporary photography with traditional scroll forms to stunning, yet minimalist effect. In our exhibition brochure, Tomo-oka discusses his work and influences, excerpted below:

“I wish to express the beauty of kaboku, which is to say ‘flowers and trees,’ using photographic techniques to create an image resembling a painting. I want to be able to feel the unadorned beauty of the plants, using a composition consisting solely of the plant and empty space, making the picture as simple as possible.


Maple, 2010, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

“My photographs are all tall and narrow (the same proportions as calligraphy paper) as I instinctively found this ratio to be ideal for expressing plants. I think that this may be a result of my experience of seeing painted hanging scrolls, fusuma (sliding door panels) and folding screens in temples as a young boy.

“When I worked as a gardener, I visited the gardens of Kyoto’s famous temples every day. Although I saw these gardens daily, they would change their expression in a moment as I looked at them. In particular, Japan has four very distinct seasons and the gardens’ appearance would alter completely with each season. They also changed according to the state of the viewer’s mind. Each garden possessed a kind of universality that I could always feel while I was working there.

“There is a big difference between photographs and paintings. In painting the artist looks at the subject, considers it, then passes it through the ‘filter’ of his or her physical body to depict it; photography is much more direct. Photography cannot exist without a concrete subject (in my case flowers). There has to be something material in order for the camera to cut out a moment of its existence. When photographing plants, their natural power and aesthetics are

Lotus 3

Lotus 3, 2011, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

expressed directly without passing through the filter that is me. I photograph plants that are on the verge of decay because they are beautiful. It is my ambition to capture the expressions unique to each plant. If you can feel the power of the plant, then my ability and individuality becomes almost unnecessary.

“The reason why I choose flowers as my subject is because I like them. No other reason is necessary but if I were to venture one, it would be that I think they possess an absolute beauty that mankind is incapable of copying. The time I spend in contact with plants (growing them, collecting them from the mountains, observing them every day as I wait for them to reach their best condition) is vastly longer than the time I spend actually photographing them. Before I take a photograph I like to get to know the plant well, observing it carefully and make sketches. The time I spend in contact with plants is when I am at my happiest.”

Takashi Tomo-oka is on view from April 19 through July 28, 2013. A number of programs will accompany this exhibition, including Art and Coffee on May 10, Fusion Fridays on June 21, and a Curator’s Tour on July 13. Check the exhibition page on our website for more details, and make sure to see these beautiful works in person tomorrow when the show opens! ~CM

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: April 15-21

April 15, 2013

IMG_1597We’re trying a little something new– a weekly post to make sure you know what’s coming up at Pacific Asia Museum! Make sure to check back every Monday to stay in the know. And as always, you can sign up for our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage, or check out our full events calendar here.

Exhibition OpeningTakashi Tomo-oka opens on Friday, April 19. Don’t miss this stunning exhibition of contemporary photography mounted in a traditional scroll format. Watch for a blog post later this week with more details on this exhibition.

Dyeing Workshop: In the last of a three-part workshop series, Setsuko Hayashi teaches students to create projects using stenciling techniques on Sunday, April 21. Each class is $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Fee includes all materials. Advance registration required, call 626-449-2742 x 31.

Authors on Asia: Nancy Pine will discuss and sign Educating Young Giants: What Kids Learn (And Don’t Learn) in China and America also on Sunday, April 21 at 2 p.m. revealing how antiquated teaching methods and ineffectual reform efforts have left youth in the U.S. and China ill-equipped for the modern global economy. Books available for purchase and signing. RSVP (626) 449-2742 x 20.

Our ongoing classes also continue, including Chinese brush painting and calligraphy, Hawaiian music, tai chi and yoga.

Puppets and Gamelan at Fusion Fridays!

April 12, 2013
Maria Bodman Balinese Wayang Kulit

Indonesian shadow puppets. Courtesy of Bali and Beyond.

At our Fusion Friday premiere on May 17, we’ll have a fantastic Indonesian shadow puppet performance accompanied by live gamelan music courtesy of Bali and Beyond. This group was recently here for a Free Family Festival, and was so awesome we couldn’t wait to have them back!

Shadow puppet shows have been performed in various parts of Indonesia for centuries. Made of intricately cut rawhide and bamboo sticks, these shadow puppets are manipulated by a single puppeteer to tell a story. Moving the puppets behind a screen with a lamp suspended behind it, the puppeteer can serve a number of functions– he or she (traditionally male, but not in the case of Bali and Beyond) will handle the puppets, narrate the story and even create sound effects with the feet. This is a complicated task that requires great skill both in performance and multitasking!


Bali and Beyond takes us behind the scenes– even though they’re not seen by the audience, the puppets are brightly painted and the lamp holder is delicately carved.

These shows are traditionally accompanied by gamelan music, which can also accompany dance and other performances and ceremonies. Gamelan is a term for a set of instruments meant to be played together rather than the musicians themselves. These instruments can include gongs, bells, drums, flutes, string instruments and xylophones, all of which are specifically tuned to the other instruments in the gamelan. Each performing group varies in the number and variety of instruments and musical style, particularly by region. For example, Bali’s gamelan gong kebyar is characterized by changing tempo and dynamics very suddenly, while Javanese gamelan is usually slower and more relaxed. The music can sound quite unfamiliar to Western ears because common gamelan musical scales use five or seven unevenly spaced notes to an octave, while the Western chromatic scale has eight evenly spaced notes. The tuning also varies from gamelan to gamelan, so instruments are not interchangeable. Think of it this way– if you play a key on one piano and then on another, they should be the same note if properly tuned. For gamelan instruments, they’ll always be different– the note is completely dependent on the musical scale and tuning of the whole gamelan. Going further, the piano key immediately to the left or right of the first key played would also be the same on two different pianos. For gamelan instruments, that’s not the case either.

At our May 17 premiere of Fusion Fridays, Bali and Beyond will perform a shadow puppet show accompanied by a two-person xylophone gamelan– check them out in the video above. After their performance, they’ll give you a peek behind the scenes and show you how the puppets move, the special effects, and of course the gamelan. Make sure you get your tickets early so you don’t miss out! ~CM

Focusing on “Focus on the Subject”

April 5, 2013

New Head Preparator Phillip carefully positions a sake pot on a stand.

Our newest exhibition, Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection, opens today (brush up on the history of the collection here). As our curatorial staff put the finishing touches on the exhibition, our new Head Preparator Phillip took a few minutes to explain the process. Phillip joined the Pacific Asia Museum team in February, and since then he’s been hard at work designing the layout of the exhibition and building the various mounts to display the objects.


“Kyoto Geisha” by Katsushika Hokumei, 1840.

“It’s been very interesting to work on this particular exhibition because we’re pairing the paintings and drawings with objects represented in those works,” Phillip said. “Many of the drawings are done in a loose style, so the details of a comb or hairpin aren’t necessarily clear. Seeing the objects in person really adds to your appreciation of the artwork, and it was great to work with curators Bridget and Yeonsoo, who came up with the image/object pairing concept.” For example, the painting at left, Kyoto Geisha, is paired with an assortment of hair ornaments in the exhibition. The portrayal of stylish urban beauties in fashion of the era was one hallmark of ukiyo-e. As popular public figures in the pleasure quarters, courtesans and geisha were embodiments of physical beauty. Geisha hairstyles were complex and closely linked to status, making use of a variety of hairpins, combs and other ornaments. In this painting, her hairpin is evident but not detailed. The resin ornaments below are examples of the type of ornament the woman in the painting would have worn. The fine detail of these pieces are marks of excellent craftsmanship, and would have denoted sophistication.

Hairpins laid out for installation.

Hairpins laid out for installation.

Phillip’s task is to display the objects in such a way that they tell a story together. “I’m building risers and stands for the objects so it’s easy to see how they relate to the paintings,” he said. “We custom-build the stand for each object so that they’re as unobtrusive as possible. The purpose of exhibit production is to serve the artwork.” Now installed, for example, the hairpins above are set on angled stands so that visitors can see as much detail as possible.

Beauty objects installed in the exhibition.

Beauty objects installed in the exhibition.

You’ll definitely want to see these and other works in Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection up close, so make sure to come visit now that it’s open. The exhibition will be on view for a full year, but many pieces will rotate in the fall. The exhibition also is complemented by a number of programs, including Art and Coffee on July 12 and a Curator’s Tour on October 5. ~CM

Katsushika Hokumei (fl. 1804–30), Kyoto Geisha, Edo period (1603–1868); c. 1840, Ink, color and gofun on paper, mounted on silk, Gift of Herman Blackman and Barbara Lockhart Blackman, 1986.94.8
Hair Pins and Comb, 20th century, Resin, Gift of Mrs. Margaret Webb, 1986.38.1A-E
Hairpin, c.1900, Silver, coral, gilding, Gift of Mr. Keester Sweeney, 1983.27.10
Hair Ornament, c.1900, Silver, coral, gilding, Gift of Mr. Keester Sweeney, 1983.27.9
Mirror, 19th C., Bronze, Gift of June and Montel Montgomery, 1998.9.2