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

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

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

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

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

Harari and History

March 21, 2013

The Four Sleepers On April 5, we’re excited to open the new exhibition Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection. This exhibition will run through  March 30, 2014 in the Frank and Toshie Mosher Gallery of Japanese Art, and includes a full object rotation in October to accommodate a greater number of objects and protect them from extended exposure to light.

The renowned Harari Collection of Japanese Edo (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) era paintings and drawings is one of the most significant groups of works on paper at Pacific Asia Museum. Amassed in London during the 1950s and 60s by Ralph Harari, the collection includes ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world,” recently seen in our exhibition Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi); important paintings and sketches by Hokusai, Hiroshige and their schools; paintings by Kano, Tosa, Nanga, and Shijo schools; and decorative paintings including fans. In the 1980s, Pacific Asia Museum acquired the majority of this collection with the support of several generous donors. Previously, objects from this large collection have been featured in the exhibitions 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection in 2011 and Reflections of Beauty: Women from Japan’s Floating World in 2006, among others.

Daruma Carrying a CourtesanFocus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection
features selected works from this group, and shows how Japanese painters and artisans shared their appreciation for certain subjects like landscapes, physical beauty, poetry and more. These recurring themes found in the paintings are also found elsewhere in the Pacific Asia Museum collection in objects like ceramics, textiles, lacquerware and sculpture. By looking at a few of the finest examples of Harari Collection paintings alongside related objects, you’ll see these themes from multiple perspectives for a fuller understanding of Japanese art and culture.

As mentioned above, key objects in the exhibition include several examples of ukiyo-e. One such work is Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream by Ogawa Ritsuo (1663-1747) (at left). Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who is believed to have taken Buddhism from India to China in the 6th century C.E. In Japan, Daruma is regarded as the founder and patriarch of Zen Buddhism and is often depicted as a sullen monk with large, staring eyes and wearing a red robe as seen here. In the Edo period, his image often appeared in ukiyo-e paintings and prints beside beautiful courtesans in a humorous juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness. The two figures are often depicted wearing each other’s clothing, though not in the case of this painting.

Make sure to catch both rotations of this exhibition by visiting this spring and later in the fall– you won’t want to miss the beautiful works in either rotation. ~CM


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

Ogawa Ritsuo, Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream, Japan, c. 1740, Ink, color, gofun on paper, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, 1986.67.2