April 23 – April 27 USC Pacific Asia Museum

April 23, 2014

For a full listing of exhibitions and events, go to pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu

Inagaki Nenjiro Pagoda: Yasaka Japan, 1976 Woodblock print on paper Gift of an Anonymous Donor 2006.4.3

Friday, April 25, is FREE FOURTH FRIDAY so admission is free for everyone all day.

A New Way Forward: Japanese Hanga of the 20th Century
This week at the museum, we are putting the finishing touches on the upcoming exhibition opening April 25. A New Way Forward: Japanese Hanga of the 20th Century presents examples of shin hanga and sosaku hanga side-by-side to highlight their shared aspects as well as their distinguishing characteristics.

Fusion Fridays at the museum take art + entertainment to a new level by keeping the museum doors open late and bringing together guest DJs spinning in the courtyard, a cash bar featuring Angel City Brewery beers, prizes, and L.A.’s best food trucks in the museum’s adjacent parking lot, with special performances and activities each evening. The 2014 season of Fusion Fridays begins May 16, and continues on  June 20, July 18 and August 15 from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Each evening is free for museum members and $15 for nonmembers.

  • May 16 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A night of dragon dancing and salsa lessons kicks off the season to highlight the exhibition The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America. The YoroKobi photo booth will be onsite, plus Don Chow and India Jones food trucks.

Tickets can be purchased at fusionfridays2014.eventbrite.com 

ONGOING  EVENTS (With the exception of the Museum Tour, all events have additional fees. For details, call Visitor Services at (626) 449-2742 ext. 0. or visit our website) 

Yoga Thursdays • 12:30 – 1:30 pm $10 per class or buy a series and save. Beginners welcome!

Tai Chi. Saturdays • 8 – 9:30 am $10 per class; free to first time students. Beginners welcome!

Chinese Calligraphy Saturdays • 8:45 – 9:45 am Come in for a free observation of this six-week series class. $80 per person, $50 if also enrolled in Chinese Brush Painting.

Chinese Brush Painting Saturdays • 10 am – Noon Come in for a free observation of this six-week series class. $120 per person.

Museum Tour Saturdays • 1 – 1:30 pm Docent-led tour looks at the highlights of the museum’s collection.

Haiku Third Saturday of the month • 2 pm

Hawaiian Music and More Sundays 10:30 am – Noon Learn how to play the ukulele or guitar and sing traditional songs in this 12-week series class open to musicians of all levels. Students must provide their own guitar or ukulele and those under age 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Space is limited. $160 members, $180 non-members.


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.


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

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

Join the Japanese Arts Council!

August 29, 2013
The Four Sleepers

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

Here at Pacific Asia Museum, we have a number of member-led Arts Councils that focus on particular regions and cultures (learn more about them here). All members at the Lotus level and above are eligible to join our Arts Councils, and groups like the Chinese Arts Council and Pakistan Arts Council have been active in supporting the museum’s exhibitions and programs through fundraising and  volunteering while enjoying private tours, field trips and more. We’re excited to announce that starting in September, the Japanese Arts Council will begin meeting regularly once again under new president Maureen Nyhan. An independent scholar and Pacific Asia Museum docent, Maureen earned a degree in Japanese Language and Culture from San Francisco State University and continues to learn and share her love of Japanese art and culture at the museum today.

The Japanese Arts Council will kick off on September 21 at 11 a.m.  with an informal presentation by Maureen on Kazunobu’s celebrated paintings of the lives of the Buddha’s 500 disciples, recently exhibited at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. All eligible members interested in learning more about the Council is encouraged to attend. Following the September meeting, the Council will gather regularly to enjoy members-only cultural lectures, food, field trips, collector “show and tells” as well as work together on projects in support of Japanese art and culture at Pacific Asia Museum.

Supernatural Powers, Five Hundred Arhats: Scroll 57. By Kano Kazunobu (1816‐63), Japan, Edo Period, ca. 1854‐63. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk. Photo: Collection: Zōjōji, Tokyo, Japan.

On September 21, Maureen will give a presentation of the 500 rakan (arhat) exhibition Masters of Mercy that traveled to the Freer Sackler Museum, Washington DC in 2012 after being on display in Tokyo. From 1854 until his death in 1863, Japanese artist Kano Kazunobu (born 1816) labored to produce one hundred paintings depicting the miraculous interventions and superhuman activities of the five hundred disciples of the Buddha. The project was commissioned by Zōjōji, an elite Pure Land Buddhist temple in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Now widely regarded as one of the most impressive feats of Buddhist iconography created during the Edo period (1615–1868), this remarkable ensemble was largely overlooked through much of the twentieth century.

A revival of interest began in the 1980s and culminated in a major exhibition in Tokyo in spring 2011, held to commemorate the eight-hundredth anniversary of the death of Hōnen (1133–1212), founder of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. Zōjōji collaborated with the Edo-Tokyo Museum and noted scholars to produce the exhibition, which featured all one hundred paintings along with related works and documentary material. The whole ensemble had not been viewed publicly since World War II.

Lovers of Japanese art and culture won’t want to miss this fascinating presentation and the chance to learn more about the Japanese Arts Council. For more information, visit our website.

Mitate-e metaphors in Japanese art

July 11, 2013
Courtesan Dancing to Daruma's Accompaniment

Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711–85), Courtesan Dancing to Daruma’s Accompaniment

Our current exhibition Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection is full of fun details to explore. One particularly humorous section examines mitate-e, which literally means “look and compare.” This is a category of Japanese art that uses metaphorical images that juxtaposes historical and contemporary events and figures, often fusing the religious with the vulgar, the high with the low, added layers of meanings that could be playful, critical or ironical references enjoyed by the educated classes. Here we’ll look at two works from the exhibition in this category. If you want to get a closer look at these paintings, don’t miss the Curator’s Tour of this exhibition this Saturday, July 13 at 2 p.m.

Mitate-e became popular in the Edo period when urban culture blossomed. As the Tokugawa shogunate secured relative peace, the newly established capital Edo (today Tokyo) grew rapidly in population and economic status. The merchant class accumulated wealth but their relatively low social status limited their participation in public affairs. As a result, they looked for outlets in various forms of entertainment, and embraced mitate-e, which allowed the indirect critique of current events and élite culture. The inclusion of witty prose or poems next to images heightened the complex allusions embedded in mitate-e. Text could also nuance or disguise the interpretation, further stimulating the viewer or confusing the authorities who regulated mass-produced images. 

Among the most popular subjects in mitate-e are pairings of courtesans with religious figures such as Daruma (Bodhidharma in Chinese), the Indian monk who transmitted Chan (Zen in Japanese) Buddhism to China, as seen at the top of this post. The juxtaposition of this ascetic with a courtesan of the pleasure quarters humorously critiqued religion as well as the culture of the ruling samurai class who boasted of their dedication to Zen. It also underscores the core values of the genre known as ukiyo-e (or ‘pictures of the floating world’), to which this painting belongs. The word ukiyo (‘transitory world’) was derived from Buddhism, referring to the ephemeral nature of this world. By replacing the character for uki 憂き (meaning ‘transitory’) with a homonym 浮meaning ‘floating,’ a profound Buddhist idea was turned upside down to express the attitude of  joie de vivre characteristic of the pleasure quarters.

Zen Buddhism teaches that anyone is able to reach enlightenment through simple, banal activities such as chopping wood or taking naps. Here, the courtesan’s knowledge of the ‘floating world’ (ukiyo 浮世) is compared to Daruma’s enlightened realization of the ‘evanescence of the world’ (ukiyo 憂き世). It also suggests that one can find enlightenment, or release, in the carnal activities of the pleasure quarters. Pious Daruma playing the shamisen, a popular musical instrument among courtesans and geisha, further increases the wry humor.

The poem accompanying the image is by Old Priest Rinsen in the Jōkyō era (1684–88). It reads:
Why have you come from the west?
Don’t ask and cause me to regret it.
In playing the shamisen, the bridges do not count.
The heart alone sings:
Is it the plectrum or the strings
Which makes the music?
(Translation by Kuniko Brown)

Courtesan with a Crane

Kawamata Tsunemasa (flourished 1716–48), Courtesan with a Crane (detail)

Rinnasei (Lin Hejing in Chinese) was a famous Chinese poet of the Song dynasty (960–1127). A hermit renowned for never writing down his poems as well as his love for the crane and plum tree, he was often depicted with them in paintings. In this mitate-e, Tsunemasa provocatively replaced the reclusive poet with a courtesan resplendent in a sumptuous kimono. She gently rests her hand on a crane under a plum tree, echoing Lin’s reputation for treating these birds as his surrogate children. Courtesans were given names using auspicious words; tsuru (crane) and ume (plum) were often chosen for their association with longevity and resilience. Plums were also compared to courtesans for their sensual fragrance and showy blossoms.

The companion poem (not pictured) wryly alludes to the carnality of the plum:
The plum is called the “literature-loving tree.”
The hedge-row plum tree
To men gives freely
Its fragrance.
(Translation by Jack Ronald Hillier and Kuniko Brown)

You’ll certainly want to take the time to appreciate these works in person– and soon! While this exhibition is on view through March 30, 2014, it will undergo a full rotation this fall to introduce new works from our collection and protect the objects from prolonged exposure to light.


Kawamata Tsunemasa (flourished 1716–48), Courtesan with a Crane (detail), Edo period (1603–1868); c. 1745, Ink, color and gofun (ground shell) on silk, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, 1986.67.3

Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711–85), Courtesan Dancing to Daruma’s Accompaniment, Edo period (1603–1868); c. 1755, Ink, color and gofun on paper, silk, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kamansky, 985.56.14

Bon Odori and Fusion Fridays

June 20, 2013
Bon Odori

A member of Kotobuki No Kai performs Bon Odori, Kotobuki No Kai will teach two dances at Fusion Fridays.

Throughout Japan, the summer Obon festivals usually include a form of group dancing called Bon Odori. While Obon festivities usually take place in July and August in Japan, we’re getting started a little early at tomorrow’s installment of Fusion Fridays, when Kotobuki No Kai will demonstrate and teach attendees some of these traditional dances.

Obon festival is a Japanese holiday with Buddhist and Confucian roots to honor one’s ancestors, and celebrates the filial piety of Buddha’s disciple Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren in Japanese). Mokuren had a vision of his deceased mother suffering in the afterlife, and asked Buddha how to alleviate her suffering. Buddha instructed Mokuren to give offerings to Buddhist monks returning from their summer retreat. Once he did this, his mother was released from suffering and Mokuren danced with joy.


Shuzo Ikeda, Mokuren, Japan, 1965, Woodblock print on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Felix Jude, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, 1977.55.19

During this holiday, people visit and clean the graves of their ancestors. During this time, ancestral spirits are said to visit household altars. This is also a time for the community to gather for food, drink, dancing and fun activities while wearing yukata, the light summertime style of kimono. These festivals traditionally close as participants float illuminated lanterns down a river, symbolizing the departure of the spirits until the next year. Large Japanese immigrant populations have spread the Obon festival around the world, including Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the U.S., and similar festivals are practiced in China and Korea.

Bon Odori dances vary across Japan, and musical accompaniment can vary as well. These dances have their roots in folk traditions welcoming the spirits of the dead and are performed by the entire community in a circle. At Fusion Fridays, Kotobuki No Kai will teach Tokyo Ondo and Kyushu Tanko Bushi. Tokyo Ondo is named for Japan’s capital, and involves a combination of claps and simple arm movements as the group moves in a circle. Kyushu Tanko Bushi, or “The Song of the Coal Miners,” is a regional dance from Kyushu that recalls the miners at the now-shuttered Miike Mine. Movements in this dance mime digging, cart pushing, lantern hanging, and gazing at the moon. As in Tokyo Ondo, the dance moves in a circle as the participants gesture.

With all the Obon festivities throughout Los Angeles in the summer, you’ll definitely want to learn Bon Odori at Fusion Fridays! And if that’s not your style, the evening also features Pacific Island dance performances, food trucks, art activities, and a cash bar in our courtyard. Tickets are available in advance on Eventbrite or at the door. ~CM

Introducing the new Snukal Gallery

May 16, 2013
Collections Management Assistant Cesar in the newly reinstalled Snukal Gallery

Collections Management Assistant Cesar in the newly reinstalled Snukal Gallery

This Friday, May 17, we’ll reopen our newly reinstalled Snukal Ceramics Study Gallery. It’s been behind closed doors for 2 1/2 months as our curatorial and collections team has removed many ceramic pieces in the gallery and reinstalled key examples from different regions and time periods. This reinstallation had several goals: first and most importantly, to upgrade the cases and object mounts to better protect the objects from earthquakes; to reduce the number of objects in each case so that visitors can better enjoy each individual work; and to rearrange the flow of the cases to tell a comprehensive story of ceramic production in Asia.

mount closeup“Before, the objects were not anchored in custom mounts in most cases,” said Cesar, our Collections Management Assistant. “It was a concern for us that a strong earthquake would put many objects at risk.” As part of an overall initiative to prevent objects both on view and in storage from damage from earthquakes (which was generously funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services ), the curatorial and collections departments worked with mount makers and an objects conservator to design and build custom mounts and supports for each individual object and anchored them into new plexiglass shelves.

Case 6, before and after

Case 6, before and after

The reinstallation also involved rethinking the entire layout of the gallery cases. “By putting the objects in chronological order, grouped by country, we’re able to show the progression of ceramic technology and techniques through a careful selection of a smaller number of objects,” Cesar said. In the “after” case above, the colored glazes are in contrast to the unglazed ceramics in the earlier chronological cases. These objects represent improvements in the understanding of glazing and firing techniques that resulted in a finer monochromes and multi-colored surfaces. The pigments on these ceramics are more vibrant and better preserved than the earlier painted pieces, where the surfaces are more fragile.

Reconstructed bowl with minimal conservation.

Reconstructed bowl with minimal conservation.

The final case in the gallery demonstrates different conservation techniques and raw materials involved in making and glazing ceramics. “Because of the delicate nature of ceramics and the age of many of these objects, some of them were added to the museum collection despite having had previous repairs. All these objects have been repaired in one way or another,” Cesar said. “You can see  different approaches to repairs that have been used – sometimes the repairs are left to be clearly evident, at other times additional steps are taken to blur the repair or integrate it into the work. In some instances, modern pigments were used by early generations of conservators in painting the repaired area to match the undamaged areas but have faded or changed color over time, highlighting the areas that were repaired. Conservators working today strive to use pigments and materials that meet stringent standards for lightfastness and other concerns so that the repairs will stand the relative test of time.”

Come see the newly reinstalled Snukal Gallery for yourself, and enjoy the new progression of objects. What trends and changes do you observe as you move through the cases? ~CM