Each month the Asian Arts Council presents a program featuring a distinguished scholar, curator, collector or Asian arts enthusiast of note. We meet the last Thursday of the month in the Museum’s Boardroom at 1:00 p.m. and begin with a brief business meeting before the lecture. Meetings are free for AAC members, only $10 for Museum members, $12 for non-members and $8 for students.
Click on a date line below for a lecture summary from the Asian Arts Council Newsletter
AAC Newsletter – Aug. 2015, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Christine Brown illustrated a wide array of headdresses from around the world in her talk, Textiles for the Head: Utility, Identity, Authority. Her expertise began with her degree in Anthropology, her service in the Peace Corps in West Africa, and having lived in many countries during her career with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The variety of head coverings worn in different cultures carry meanings far beyond the mere functional. They can proclaim wealth or status, reveal or conceal identity, announce marital status or availability, identify group affiliation or geographic location, celebrate marriage and birth or mourn a death, attract good fortune or protect from malevolent forces. Designs were embellished with embroidery or applique, cowry shells, coins, buttons, beads, plant material, seeds, animal hair, claws or horns, and even human hair. Some designs depicted a tree of life motif, animals or birds or geometric patterns. Particular colors were used to denote age, status, rank or authority. Many of the head coverings included ear flaps, face veils or braid covers, and some extended over the shoulders, to the waist or the ankles. Following the presentation, Christine showed some examples that she has collected and some that members had acquired during their travels, affording everyone a close examination of the meticulous workmanship and creative designs of these beautiful examples of other cultures.
AAC Newsletter – September 2015, p 2-3 Lecture Flyer
Once again, one of our favorite speakers, Dr. Andreas Marks, presented an entertaining and informative lecture, Gale, Hill, Clark, Burke: Treasures of Japanese Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), which focused on some of the major donors of Japanese art to the MIA, where he is Curator of Japanese and Korean Art and Director of the Clark Center for Japanese Art. The MIA has one of the foremost collections of Japanese and Korean art, comprising almost 8,000 works displayed in 16 galleries. Nearly half makes up a comprehensive collection of ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. A bequest by Richard Pillsbury Gale included 57 paintings and 206 prints, plus several prints by the highly regarded, but mysterious artist Toshusai Sharaku, about whom little is known.
Louis W. Hill, Jr., the son of a railroad baron, was a state legislator, and the first to participate in the Sister City Program of President Eisenhower, founding the St. Paul/Nagasaki Sister City relationship in 1956. Of 2,500 Japanese works he gave to the MIA, one is a rare version of Utagawa Hiroshige’s woodblock print, Kanbara: Night Snow.
In 2013 over 1,800 works came into the MIA from Elizabeth and Willard “Bill” Clark, whose passion for Japanese art encompassed prints, scrolls, screens, ceramics, lacquerware and bamboo sculptures. An exceptional and rare
wood sculpture is the 13th century Daitoku Myoo, the Wisdom King of Awe-inspiring Power, a wrathful deity devoted to helping the devotee to overcome earthly passions, thus aiding enlightenment.
AAC Newsletter – October 2015, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Dr. Alex Stewart, Senior Coordinator of Education and Exhibits at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum presented a lively description of the many Mysterious Moon Myths: Behind the Chinese Moon Festival.
One version of the tale says the people once suffered under the unbearable heat of ten suns until the heroic archer Hou Yi shot down nine of them with his bow and arrows. In gratitude, the people proclaimed him king and he married the beautiful Chang E. He later becomes a tyrant, travels to the Kunlun Mountains and obtains the elixir of immortality from the Queen Mother of the West. To save the world from eternal tyranny, Chang E seizes the elixir and drinks it herself, causing her to float up to the moon where she dwells forever, and Hou Yi is reduced to gazing up at the full moon each month to see his beloved. Variations on this story have a repentant Hou Yi build her a palace on the moon and/or deliver her pet rabbit, which becomes the Jade Rabbit of the moon.
In other versions there is a toad, a three-legged crow or a woodcutter named Wu Gang who endlessly tries to chop down a perpetually regenerating cassia tree. The basic myth dates back 3,000 years to the Shang and Zhou dynasties, but the Moon Festival is traced to the Northern Song dynasty (10th-12th century). Viewing the myths philosophically, they are sometimes considered to illustrate the Daoist acceptance of one’s fate; a lament for the fickleness of love; or punishment for disobedience. The pairing of the toad and the rabbit or gods and goddesses may allude to yin and yang, the cosmic forces that are opposite yet complimentary.
AAC Newsletter – November 2015, p 2 & 3 Lecture FlyerRobert Garfias’ engaging lecture, Gagaku: Imperial Court Music of Japan was a rare opportunity for AAC members to experience the music of what has been described as, “the oldest continuous orchestral music in the world today.” Over the centuries this music has been notated, preserved and handed down by professional court musicians. Under the auspices of the Imperial Court -- today the Music Department of the Imperial Household -- the musicians themselves serve as a living tradition using notation that has survived centuries.
AAC Newsletter – January 2016, p 2 & 3 Luncheon InvitationIn December the AAC’s Annual Heritage Luncheon in the Prado’s grand ballroom provided a beautiful setting for devotees of Asian art to begin the holiday season. Providing their creativity and expertise were Luncheon Co-Chairs Laurel Holloway, Courtenay McGowen, Kathleen Suros and Pat Winter. Gordon Brodfuehrer generously provided the wine, and Courtenay McGowen and Kathleen Suros designed, created and underwrote the attractive centerpieces.
AAC Newsletter – February 2016, p 2 & 3 Lecture FlyerIn his presentation, Smoking 'The Rat' and Saving the Nation: Early 20th Century Chinese Display Advertising and the Rise of 'Commercial Warfare,' Dr. David Fraser explored a diverse gamut of local and national influences on early 20th century China. During the final days of the Qing dynasty, China was known to the world as “the sick man of Asia” because of corruption in the government, foreign encroachment and a debilitating lack of leadership. The world was rapidly modernizing and advances in printing technology resulted in a robust advertising industry in Shanghai that promoted the latest new products and lifestyles using four-color lithographs for calendars and magazines. Due to the foreign concessions established in Shanghai, it was an international city that was being compared to Paris or New York. Much as today, businesses were eager to tap the large, new market of potential consumers. The British-American Tobacco Co. recruited top-flight local artists to produce yuefenpai or “calendar posters” in gorgeous color featuring beautiful women smoking brands such as ‘The Rat’ or ‘My Dear’ cigarettes. Some cigarettes were even advertised as beneficial for asthma. The calendar posters often depicted pretty women dressed in Western styles showing bare arms or legs, doing ‘modern’ things such as riding a bicycle or playing golf, or in a pastoral scene with both Chinese and Western references. Exploiting the visual and emotional impact of poster art, advertisers used goods to sell nationalism, and nationalism to sell goods. Some competitors made a direct, nationalist appeal to buy Chinese goods rather than foreign products. The conclusion drawn by Dr. Fraser was that modernization was a unifying factor for China.
AAC Newsletter – March 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Virginia “Ginny” Moon, Assistant Curator of Korean Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presented a tantalizing array of future Korean art exhibits that will result from the recent partnership between LACMA and The Hyundai Motor Company. She outlined the paucity of interest in Korean art by museums, the public and even in Korea until quite recently. Art history has only been studied in Korea since the 1980s.The first exhibition of any kind in the United States was photographs from the Korean War at MOMA in New York in 1951. The first comprehensive exhibition of Korean art, spanning 2000 years, was shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1957. The beginning of LACMA’s Korean collection was a donation of 23 ceramics in 1966 which has grown into the extensive Korean galleries that opened in 2009.
The growth of interest in Korean art in recent years has been supported by corporate sponsorship of museums and vigorous bidding at auction, especially for tansaekhua canvases of the 1970s. Tansaekhua, literally, one color painting, is a style of neutral color, monochromatic, abstract painting that emphasizes texture, materiality and process. Future planned exhibitions at LACMA include a history of calligraphy in Korea for 2018; an exhibition on “modern” Korean art during the time of occupation and then, war from 1910-1955; and an exhibit of contemporary visual art in 2022.
AAC Newsletter – April 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Dr. Lyndel King, Director of the Weisman Art Museum, discussed its superb collection of traditional Korean furniture, a bequest of Dr. Edward Reynolds Wright Jr. in 1988, that has been described as “the best outside of Asia.” When Dr. Wright was head of the Korean-American Educational (Fulbright) Commission in Seoul from 1967 to 1979, he began to study and collect traditional Korean furniture, insuring that all regional styles, all kinds of wood, and all types of boxes were represented. A traditional living space used floor mats rather than chairs, so the collection consists of storage chests for clothing, bed platforms, boxes for documents and writing instruments, multidrawer medicine chests, kitchen cabinets, rice and bean storage chests, coin chests, and make-up boxes with fold-out mirrors. Many different woods were used, such as persimmon, pear, linden, paulownia and zelkova, and although the chests were in the form of simple boxes, the craftsmen often used the patterns and grains of the wood to suggest the peaks of mountains. Sometimes the surface would be lacquered, but the main decorative features were the brass fittings used as hinges, hasps, drawer pulls and corner protectors. Furniture for women’s quarters was more decorative, often with fittings in the form of butterflies or bats; furniture for men’s quarters was more plain and austere.
AAC Newsletter – May 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
An illuminating review of the “Multiplicity and Diversity of Contemporary Art from Asia” was presented by Karin Oen, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. The artists discussed often combine classical training with video and digital technology to explore the interactions of East and West, and to express their ideas in a new medium. One of the works Dr. Oen showed was of Korean artist, Nam June Paik, called TV Buddha, an ancient statue of a meditating Buddha seated in front of a TV image showing the Buddha contemplating himself in a perpetual closed-circuit loop. teamLab is a collective of Japanese artists, engineers and computer scientists who create multimedia installations that generate unique immersive experiences that draw on contemporary forms of anime to create dazzling displays that envelope the viewer. Chinese artist Yang Yongliang has created a series called Artificial Wonderland which appears to be a tranquil mountain landscape until a close examination reveals it as an industrial wasteland filled with power lines and construction cranes, and the boulders in the languid river are, in fact, houses that have toppled off the overbuilt cliffs. For even more interesting and entertaining examples of the works of these artists, Google their names and explore the websites.
AAC Newsletter – June 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
AAC member Ping-Hui Ku has been conducting extensive research into the Museum’s Chinese landscape paintings, including translating the inscriptions on them, traveling to Taiwan to do research at the Academia Historica, and publishing the results in We Chinese in America. In this presentation, The Drumrights and Their Painting Collection at the San Diego Museum of Art, she focused on the 70 items donated by Ambassador and Mrs. Everett F. Drumright, the largest donor. Ambassador Drumright was born in Drumright, OK (founded by an ancestor) in 1906, graduated from the University of Oklahoma, and became a career foreign service officer. Fluent in Chinese, he was the U.S. Ambassador to R.O.C. Taiwan from 1958 to 1962. After retiring, he and his wife, Florence, lived in Poway until his death in 1993 and hers in 2003. Not only were they active with the Museum, she was Chair of the AAC, 1987-1989. Many of the paintings and calligraphies they gave were gifts to Ambassador Drumright from appreciative high ranking government and private officials, including an album of 31 paintings by 29 artists (1994.26.1-31). An album of 20 different examples of calligraphy (1995.1.0-19) was written especially for Mrs. Drumright for her to use as models for learning calligraphy. Other paintings that were collected by the Drumrights, such as Lotus by Zhang, Daqien (1986.44), adorned their walls before being gifted to the Museum, and many are now on display in the current exhibit, Brush and Ink: Chinese Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art Selected by Pan Gongkai.
AAC Newsletter – July 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Who knew that origami could be so much more than peace cranes and paper hats? Meher McArthur’s engrossing presentation, UFOs, Peace Scrolls and Vertical Ponds: New Expressions in Contemporary Origami, illustrated how origami has expanded from creating small animal figures folded from a single piece of paper into abstract, sculptural forms that can fill a room. These new forms are being explored by artists expressing social commentary and scientists employing laser scoring and mathematical principles. New techniques include tessellation (or tiling) resembling the geometric patterning of mosaic work; modular objects combining separate interlocking pieces; and crumpled, inflated, hanging forms (Unidentified Flying Origami).
Suggesting both the benefits and harm inherent in money, Sipho Mabona created a vaguely threatening swarm of locusts using uncut sheets of $1 bills. An installation piece called Vertical Pond by scientist-turned-origami artist Robert Lang, arrays 60 gravity-defying koi swimming on a wall. The exhibition Meher McArther curated, Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami, featuring these and other cutting-edge artists, is now on display through August 21 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.