Last Chance for The Garden in Asia and The Art of Continuity

December 12, 2013

On January 5, we’ll close our two 2013 exhibitions The Garden in Asia and The Art of Continuity. Make sure to visit your favorite pieces in these exhibitions before they’re gone, and brush up on your background with these previous posts.

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The Garden in Asia

Contemporary Art in “The Garden in Asia”

It’s the little things in “The Garden in Asia”

Ancestor Painting

The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders

“Revering our Elders” in the Pacific Islands

Remembering our Fathers

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Contemporary Art in “The Garden in Asia”

September 13, 2013

"Katsura Kyoto" by Kiyoshi SaitoAs you’re enjoying the contemporary works in Constructed Visions, don’t forget that there are several more contemporary works throughout our galleries. In The Garden in Asia, you can find two wonderful contemporary Japanese works on paper that complement the more traditional objects that surround them.

In the section “The Garden’s Ambiance,” you’ll see objects that convey the artist’s appreciation of how nature can elicit emotion. Whether meditative, imaginative or wistful, emotions can be communicated by the artist through his or her depiction of a space. The two contemporary pieces in this section are no exception– both reference specific spaces in Kyoto that elicit contemplation.

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto has been widely recognized for its extraordinary garden and pavilion designs. Set in wooded surroundings and commissioned by Prince Toshitito (1579-1629), the complex expresses the idea of rustic simplicity. Each garden in Katsura Villa makes a reference to real or mythical landscapes in its design. Depicted here is the garden surrounding Shokin-tei, or Pine Lute Pavilion, and its distinct features include the “rocky shore,” shown as the white pathway to the villa here. It was laid out with carefully chosen white pebbles to evoke the long sand spit of Amanohashidate, one of the most famous of Japan’s scenic spots. The view from the villa could have served to facilitate meditation, bringing the viewer in touch with the illusion of alluded landscape.

Kiyoshi Saito successfully conveyed the minimalist aesthetic of the tea house and its garden in this simple composition, seen at top. Gardens such as this were created for viewing pleasure as well as to be a place for reflection and spiritual refreshment. While looking at this garden, one could empty his or her mind of worldly concerns, or gain spiritual energy from a quiet contemplation.

"Stone Garden in Kyoto" by Masayoshi KasugaiStones have a special place in East Asian gardens. The Chinese have long valued scholar’s rocks for their natural beauty as well as symbolic meaning, and the museum’s garden features several fine examples. Although the idea of including stones and rocks in the garden was borrowed from Chinese prototypes, the Japanese further developed the idea of karesansui, or dry landscape, in which stones became the main material of the garden landscape. Karesansui, literally meaning ‘dry mountains and water,’ at its early stage metaphorically stood for rocks, waterfalls, streams and ponds. During the medieval or feudal period (1185-1603) in Japan when Zen Buddhism gained popularity among the elite class, rock gardens had more philosophical and spiritual associations. Compared to gardens with lush greenery and blooming flowers, the harsh and ascetic appearance of the stone gardens was thought to better represent the rigorous spiritual process of Zen meditation.

Masayoshi Kasugai, a master papermaker and fiber artist, conveyed the dry and arid surface of a stone garden onto his canvas with this collage of hand-dyed mulberry fibers. By presenting layered rocks in a folding screen format, Kasugai creatively replicated the spatial composition of the karesansui with slopes and hills.

You might also remember another contemporary woodblock print in this exhibition– Noriaki Okamoto’s Ginkakuji, which was mentioned in a previous post. Viewed alongside works that are substantially older, these contemporary works show that the garden and nature continue to influence artists today. When you visit this exhibition, make sure to visit Pacific Asia Museum’s own courtyard garden, and see how you’re inspired too! ~CM

Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997), Katsura Kyoto, Japan, 1956, Woodblock print on paper, Gift of Peter Ries, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 2002.37.6

Masayoshi Kasugai (b. 1921), Stone Garden in Kyoto, Japan, 1952, Paper collage, Gift of Margot and Hans Ries, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 1986.78.1


Object Rotations On The Way

May 23, 2013

Last week we unveiled the new Snukal Gallery, and today we’re excited to share more upcoming changes! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rotating light-sensitive objects in several galleries, including the Gallery of Korean ArtThe Garden in Asia and The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders. To ensure that our collection is preserved for generations to come, our curatorial staff carefully plans permanent and long-term exhibitions so that they can rotate textiles, paintings and other works on paper. In addition to conservation, this has the additional benefit of displaying a wider variety of our collection for our visitors. Check out these previous posts about these galleries, and make sure to visit your favorite paintings and textiles soon before the new ones are installed. ~CM

Rank BadgeConfucianism in the Gallery of Korean Art
This gallery includes a stunning 19th-century ink painting of grapevines, seen in the top image in this post. This and other paintings in the gallery will soon be replaced with thematically similar objects.

 

 

 

The Mustard Seed ManualThe Three Friends of Winter
Current exhibition The Garden in Asia includes a number of beautiful scroll paintings, including the plum tree branch pictured in this post. It also includes a number of paintings in book form– in those cases, curatorial staff will open the books to new pages.

 

Ancestor Painting

The Art of Continuity: Revering our Elders
This exhibition also includes a number of beautiful works on paper, including these colorful ancestor portraits. Also rotating are the portraits at the end of the exhibition provided by the community– you can even submit your own ancestor photographs to info@pacificasiamuseum.org.


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


It’s the little things in “The Garden in Asia”

February 15, 2013

photo (14)Hopefully by now you’ve had the opportunity to stroll through our exhibition The Garden in Asia (if not, check out these two previous blog posts or come to the curator’s tour on Saturday, February 16 at 2 p.m.). But have you taken the time to enjoy the smaller details? The exhibition is full of them!

Above, a red lacquer tray from Japan seems a little abstract at first glance– the color isn’t that of a leaf in nature, and is small compared to the real banana leaves on which it’s modeled. But upon closer inspection, you can see a small snail resting on the leaf. It’s a whimsical detail that takes the piece back to its natural origins, recalling the various living things that would surround a banana tree. This particular plant has been historically appreciated for its large leaves  that provided shade in hot weather or shelter on rainy days, creating pleasing sounds as raindrops struck the leaves, and has appeared in numerous artists’ sketches and studies.

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In ukiyo-e (or ‘pictures of the floating world’) of the Edo period, the image of a courtesan yearning for a reunion with her lover was a common subject. Here, the garden, a private domain where one’s mind freely roams, is an ideal setting for this courtesan who misses and dreams of the object of her affection. In this scroll, a courtesan seated on a bench in a garden exhales smoke from her pipe with a wistful gaze, and a small figure appears in the smoke plume as she daydreams. The tiny figure is facing away from us and from the courtesan, seemingly unaware of the woman’s affection.

These two objects certainly aren’t the only works waiting to be discovered in the exhibition– and for that matter, in the whole museum! Throughout our galleries, artists and artisans have added details and surprises to a wide range of objects. So next time, take a minute to look closely at your favorite work– you might just see something you haven’t noticed before. ~CM

Images:

Tray, Japan, 20th century, Lacquered wood, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James S. Munroe in memory of Jane Richardson Baldwin Colborn, 1991.60.8

The Pipe Dreamer (detail), Japan, Edo Period (1603-1868); c. 1760, Ink, color, gofun, paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Ross, 1985.55.5


The Three Friends of Winter

January 18, 2013

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Though it may not feel like it today, it’s technically still winter in Pasadena. But nicer weather means it’s a great time for you to investigate these plants in our courtyard garden!

The Three Friends of Winter, or bamboo, plum and pine, have inspired the visual and literary arts of East Asia for centuries. Because these plants flourish in the winter, they are symbols of perseverance in the face of adversity. Pine and bamboo stay green throughout months of cold and snow, and plum trees are often the first to flower as the weather warms. Because of the inspiring symbolism, these Friends are a common motif in East Asian art and are often associated with the scholar in private life. One of the earliest uses of this phrase is found in Lin Jingxi’s (林景熙, 1241-1310)  Record of the Five-cloud Plum Cottage (五雲梅舍記) from The Clear Mountain Collection (霽山集) in which is written, “For his residence, earth was piled to form a hill and a hundred plum trees, which along with lofty pines and tall bamboo comprise the friends of winter, were planted.”

Right now at Pacific Asia Museum, you can see the Friends in both our courtyard and our galleries! Our exhibition The Garden in Asia (more in this recent post) showcases these plants among others in its examination of how the garden and nature have influenced artists in Asia over the centuries. In China, gardens were and still are venues for quiet reflection or social gatherings, as well as the pursuit of knowledge and the arts such as calligraphy, music or painting. Such pursuits would often be guided by a manual like the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (芥子園畫傳), seen here at the top. First published in 1679, the Mustard Seed Manual became one of the most well-known painting guidebooks in China and beyond (this version dates to 1908, demonstrating its ongoing popularity). The manual gave painters wide-ranging templates for how to render many kinds of plants, animals, architectural and natural features of gardens, as well as historical examples of paintings to study. These pages feature paintings by Chao Xun (1852-1917) after examples by Tang Yin (1470-1523) and Shen Zhou (1427-1509). The manual can also be understood to highlight elements that should be included in thinking about and designing gardens. The lower page shows a scholar-recluse in a small hut surrounded by ‘essential’ elements such as rocks, water, an enclosing wall, a banana plant and bamboo (far right). On the top page, the pine serves as the centerpiece of the composition.

Flowering Plum Branch

This large scroll painting of a flowering plum branch by Jiang Tingzhen can be seen at the beginning of the exhibition. In addition to perseverance, the plum also is a symbol of trustworthiness: it blooms in snow, before other flowers, and promises the return of spring every year. The strong brushstrokes in the branches create a contrast with the soft petals, emphasizing the visual metaphor for a warm spring after a harsh winter. This painting likely had a personal meaning for Jiang, who was likely one of the scholar-recluses of the late Ming dynasty. During periods of political uncertainty, scholar-gentlemen retreated into their gardens and focused on study and arts. The end of the Ming dynasty, when this was likely to have been painted, was certainly one of these periods. European trade had increased dramatically and had sparked an increase in silver from Japan, the New World and Europe. In the early 1600s, however, new policies in Spain and Japan sharply restricted the influx of silver to China. This threw the economy into chaos as the value of silver dramatically increased as compared to copper, another metal used as currency. Around the same time, an ecological event now known as the “Little Ice Age” brought climate changes, floods and famine. A widespread epidemic and an earthquake made matters worse, and it was thought that the emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven (the divine approval of an emperor’s rule). Shortly after, a Manchu invasion and a peasant uprising ended the Ming era. Given the desperation widely felt at the time, it is not surprising that scholar-gentlemen would have retreated to their gardens and immersed themselves in the arts.

the Three Friends in the gardenIn our courtyard, you can see all three Friends of Winter for yourself. As our Southern California “winter” begins to warm into spring, it’s the perfect time to experience the anticipation of renewal. The plum tree is already forming buds, and the green pine and bamboo maintain a lush ambiance among the bare trees. After visiting the exhibition, take a moment and place yourself in the mind of the scholar-recluse among the Friends in the peaceful setting of our courtyard. ~CM

Jiang Tingzhen (dates not known), Flowering Plum Branch, China, late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644); c. 17th century, Ink on paper, Gift of the Grilli Collection, 1986.79.24

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual, China, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911); 1908, second month of lunar calendar, Publisher:  Zhang Fu Ji Shu Ju Shi Yin, Shanghai, Ink on paper, Gift of Harvey House, 1976.35.58


Workin’ in the Garden

August 9, 2012

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.

Seed pod on our camellia japonica

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.

Wood exposed as Mike restores the doors

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. Contact Sunny Stevenson, our Volunteer Coordinator at 626-449-2742 x 30 and get involved! ~CM