This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: October 28-November 3

October 29, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia MuseumThere’s something fun to do every week at Pacific Asia Museum! Below are some highlights for this week, and you can always see a full schedule of events on our website.

Silk Road Storytime: This Saturday, November 2, explore the special exhibition The Art of Continuity: Revering Our Elders, enjoy stories of families with storyteller Sunny Stevenson, plus make a fun craft, and try a traditional snack. Free and open to the public!

Book Launch: On Sunday, November 3, the Southern California Haiku Study Group celebrates their 2013 anthology with readings of new haiku, haibun and more in a program that promises to be evocative, thought-provoking, humorous and as always memorable. Books will be available for purchase and signing, light refreshments. RSVPs appreciated to the Museum Store, ext. 20.

Coming Up: On Friday, November 8, enjoy Art and Coffee with the curatorial staff as they lead an informal tour of our newly renovated gallery featuring The Arts of Korea in this series of informal Friday afternoon get-togethers. Complimentary coffee provided by Starbucks.


New Paintings in “Focus on the Subject”

October 25, 2013

The Four Sleepers

Next Wednesday in the Japanese gallery, you’ll find a whole new rotation of paintings to accompany the objects on view in Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection. Because works on paper are particularly sensitive to light, we need to rotate in new ones periodically to make sure they’re preserved for future generations. But don’t worry– the new items coming on view are just as wonderful.

One new piece is Tsunemasa’s The Four Sleepers. This piece is an example of mitate-e, a genre of Japanese metaphorical images that made ironical or playful references by juxtaposing historical events and figures with contemporary ones. Here, the “four sleepers” of Buddhist imagery are replaced by geisha, providing a rich visual commentary on enlightenment and worldliness. The motif is common to both Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art, featuring the Tang dynasty monk Fengken (Bukan in Japanese), known for his eccentric habit of riding a tiger, with his companions. The striking image of three men peacefully sleeping alongside a tiger alludes to the peacefulness of enlightenment that can’t be found in the waking world. The tiger is also said to signify the full control of emotion and desire, as it is under the control of Fengken. However, in this painting there are no monks or men, but geisha in clothing that is anything but austere. Objects of entertainment surround them, including a zither and a manuscript, suggesting that the four have fallen asleep after an evening of fun– they’re definitely not eschewing worldly pleasures. This playful adaptation of a well-known image is a great example of the mitate-e tradition.

This is just one of the new paintings that will be on view starting next Wednesday– between these and the entirely new Chinese gallery, there’s plenty for even the monthly visitor to enjoy!

Top image: Tsunemasa, The Four Sleepers, Japan, c. 1745, Ink, color and gold pigment on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kamansky, Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum, 1988.65.2

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: October 21-27

October 22, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum

Curator’s Tour: Learn more about The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders at an in-depth Curator’s Tour on Saturday, October 26 at 2 p.m.

Authors on Asia: On Sunday, October 27 at 2 p.m., Koos de Jong, author of Dragon & Horse: Saddle Rugs and Other Horse Tack from China and Beyond, will speak on the practical and beautiful textiles Asian cultures created for their horses over the centuries, as well as representative painting, sculpture and applied arts.

Coming up: Silk Road Storytime on Saturday, November 2 also celebrates The Art of Continuity. Bring the kids for a morning of stories, crafts and fun!

Introducing the new Chinese Gallery

October 17, 2013
Chinese gallery

An installer puts the finishing touches on the “Reading” Symbols section of the newly renovated Chinese Gallery.

Tomorrow, October 18, we’re reopening our Chinese Gallery! After years of planning and months of construction, we’re thrilled to unveil the finished product. This gallery presents our Chinese collection in a more thematic way, much like the Orientation and Korean galleries that have also been recently renovated.

China, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, is the birthplace of significant philosophical and religious systems including Confucianism and Daoism. Buddhism also flourished after coming from India, and new forms like Chan Buddhism arose. Some of the finest sculptures, paintings and textiles were commissioned to support such practices, and scholar-artists expressed their values through painting and calligraphy. Because social status was reinforced by visual cues (garments, accessories and objects in homes, for example), Chinese craftsmen and artists working for wealthy patrons explored rich symbolism in art-making while sparing little expense sourcing materials. China also played a pivotal role as a trading power in Asia and beyond, stimulating art and culture of neighboring countries and bringing new ideas and resources into the mainland. Today, these longstanding traditions are a catalyst for the work of contemporary artists in China, both through homage and acceptance or rejection and reinterpretation.

The Ralph and Angelyn Riffenburgh Gallery has featured the Pacific Asia Museum’s significant collection of Chinese ceramics since 1999. This renovation brings it in line with the new thematic approach in the museum’s permanent galleries, and displays a broader range of the arts of China including paintings, textiles and sculptural works, which will benefit from the state-of-the-art improvements in climate control in the gallery. The five themes in the gallery are Philosophies and Religions, Commerce and Trade, Tradition and Innovation, Status and Adornment and “Reading” Symbols. Within each of these sections, multiple objects in different media give the visitor a deeper understanding of the role art has played in Chinese society for centuries. For example, the Tradition and Innovation section will use a combination of contemporary and historic art to show how artists and artisans have responded to and reinterpreted traditions throughout history, including our recent acquisitions of contemporary Chinese art.

horseshoe chair

Horseshoe Chair, Late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Huanghuali wood with metal fittings and woven cloth, Gift of Mr. Tracy A. Pulvers, 1983.102.1

In the Status and Adornment section, we examine how the elite classes in China displayed their power through carefully chosen motifs and themes in the objects with which they surrounded themselves, including beautifully embellished textiles, flawless ceramics and intricately carved jades. This section explores how the ruling and elite classes of China secured and continued their legacy by controlling resources, materials and manpower. One object in this section is a spectacular folding chair from the Ming dynasty, seen at left. Chairs from this period display extraordinary craftsmanship combined with a refined aesthetic simplicity. Among chairs produced at the time, folding armchairs in the shape of a horseshoe back such as this are extremely rare. They were useful for their portability, and the round armrests and slightly curved backs provided comfort and elegance for the user. But this usefulness has led to the rarity of these chairs– constant use and transport allowed few examples to survive. The high level of workmanship and expensive material of this chair would be a mark of great status for the owner. Made with huanghuali wood, a form of rosewood, it is constructed with mortise-and-tenon joints without the use of nails, and brass fittings with floral designs reinforce the construction where structural stresses occur. The splat, or back, is decorated with a caraved landscape, an appropriate motif for its elite sitter. Paintings from the period confirm that folding chairs were used by Ming and Qing emperors for their outings—playing chess in gardens, hunting, visiting ancestors’ tombs or receiving foreign envoys.

Of course, there are many more objects in this and the other four sections! As in the other newly renovated galleries, the thematic presentation will allow us to rotate in many more objects over time, so you’ll want to make sure to visit early and often. And make sure to keep visiting this blog, too! We’ll be posting more on this new gallery in the coming months. ~CM

Minkyung Lee’s “Constructed Visions”

October 15, 2013

A Home for Everyone_Foreign home series

In our current exhibition Constructed Visions: New Media from Korea, we’re presenting the work of four Korean artists who challenge our ideas of reality. In the work of one of these artists, Minkyung Lee,  there exist two spaces—the actual environment that the artist captures with her camera and the fictitious space that she constructs using those images.

Minkyung Lee creates a new reality in her images of domestic environments. As a collector selects an object for his or her collection, Lee photographically collects spaces that catch her attention. Capturing the elements within the space (ceiling, furniture, walls and so on) individually, Lee uses these images to construct miniature models.  That miniature environment then becomes the subject of the final photograph, the finished work.

The Sink Room

An influence on this series was Lee’s visit to the studio of artist Cindy Sherman in New York in 2005. As she looked around Sherman’s attic studio, struck by how different it was from other well-known New York artists’ studios, Lee realized that spaces can be the reflection of the person who occupies it. The Foreign Home series, of which the top image A Home for Everyone is part, is an extension of this concept. Lee uses photographs of her own home and those of Korean friends also living in the U.S. to examine how spaces reflect their social and cultural background, aspirations, and the issue of displacement. Although each facet used in Home for Everyone is taken from a concrete location, the final image reflects complex memories and relationships that evolve from the source material. She presents these places of her imagining as a summation of the occupants’ identity, cultural upbringing, situation and aspirations in life.

Although trained as a painter, Minkyung Lee chooses photography. When looking at photography, we usually assume that the image reflects an actual scene or event. However, Lee believes that such reality is temporal and circumstantial and communicates these ideas through her constructed photography. Since memories are continuously changing and affected by subsequent experiences, Lee builds her models, which are based on her memories, with fragile materials and destroys them after they are photographed. ~CM

Minkyung Lee, Home for Everyone_ Foreign Home series2007, Archival inkjet print, Loaned by the artist

Minkyung Lee, The Sink Room2007, Archival inkjet print, Loaned by the artist

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: October 14-20

October 14, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum

Opening Friday: We’re excited to open the newly renovated Ralph and Angelyn Riffenburgh Gallery featuring The Arts of China on Friday, October 18. If you’re a member, you’ll get a sneak peek the night before!

Count Your Syllables: The monthly meeting of the Southern California Haiku Study Group is Saturday, October 19 at 2 p.m. The group is devoted to studying, writing, and sharing haiku in English, and all are welcome.

Coming Up: On Saturday, October 25 at 2 p.m., get an in-depth look at the works in The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders. Learn more about the impact of the veneration of ancestors and lineages on the arts of Asia as our curators give a tour of this exhibition.

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum: October 7-13

October 7, 2013

This Week at Pacific Asia Museum

This is our 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.

ArtNight: It’s back! From 6-10 p.m. on Friday, October 11, you can visit us and many other Pasadena arts institutions for free! We’ll have food trucks in our parking lot, our friends Angel City Brewery in our courtyard, and Hawaiian music and hula dancing in addition to everything on view in our galleries. As a bonus, enjoy ArtWalk the following day! More at

Authors on Asia: On Sunday, October 13 at 2 p.m., William Mariotti will discuss and sign Money, Trains, and Guillotines: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan. Books available for purchase and signing!

Coming Up: Our newly renovated Chinese Gallery will open to the public on Friday, October 18! Get a sneak peek this Friday at ArtNight, or take advantage of your membership and attend the Members’ Opening Reception on October 17.