Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Japanese art at MFA

Here’s the beginning of my review of three exhibits of Japanese art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts:
Around 1600, after a century of civil wars, Japan settled into an era of relative peace under the samurai warriors of Edo (present-day Tokyo). There and in Osaka and Kyoto, “pleasure quarters” developed. They offered legal brothels, theaters, and teahouses where, the catalogue for the Museum of Fine Arts’ “Drama and Desire” explains, “even the most reliable, serious-minded family man luxuriated shamelessly in all manner of musical entertainment and dance performed by geisha or in witty conversation and other intimacies with a courtesan” — i.e., a prostitute.

The contemporaneous prints that captured this “ukiyo,” or “floating world,” are well known, but the MFA’s “Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690–1850,” in the Torf Gallery, provides a rare sampling of 83 “ukiyo-e” (“pictures of the floating world”) paintings. All are drawn from the MFA’s collection of more than 700, which it proclaims the “finest” and “largest collection of its type in the world.” They were acquired in Japan in the 1870s and 1880s, when Boston and the MFA were visionary in their art collecting. Ah, the good old days.
Read the rest here.

I feel obliged to note that “Drama and Desire” includes a handful of samples from the Mfa’s collection of 100 sexually explicit “shunga,” or “spring pictures” (including the handscoll pictured above) which MFA curator Anne Nishimura Morse, who organized the exhibition, says amount to the largest group of erotic ukiyo-e paintings anywhere.

Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690-1850,” Aug. 28 to Dec. 16, 2007. “Arts of Japan: The John C. Weber Collection,” Sept. 22, 2007, to Jan. 13, 2008. “Contemporary Outlook: Japan,” July 2, 2007, to Feb. 10, 2008. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston.

Pictured: From “Arts of Japan”: “Battles of Ichinotani and Yashima,” 17th century, pair of folding screens; John C. Webber Collection, photography © John C. Webber and John Bigelow Taylor, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From “Drama and Desire”: Detail of Katsukawa Shuncho “Collection of Suggestive Pictures,” handscroll. From “Contemporary Outlook: Japan”: Chinatsu Ban,“Fish Eyes - Sixth of Ten Brothers,” 2005, from Museum of Fine Arts, photography © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“China seen by…” at URI

Here’s the beginning of my review of “China seen by . . .” at the University of Rhode Island:
In “China seen by . . .,” an intriguing, densely packed exhibit of 30 works at the University of Rhode Island’s Fine Art Center Galleries, 14 photographers reflect and try to make sense of the industrial dynamo that is China today. Side by side, the images feel like momentary glimpses of a nation at once awesome, bewildering, and massively in flux.

Beijing artist Wang Qingsong’s 2001 triptych “Past, Present and Future” [below] poses models in the heroic stances of Maoist social realist public monuments. China’s past is represented on the left by gun-toting revolutionary soldiers in muddy uniforms. The present, at right, is a troupe of silver-painted soldiers, laborers, and a man and woman holding rolls of paper (architectural plans, perhaps). The future is represented in the center with a group of gold-painted soldiers, a farmer, a welder, and a businessman carrying flowers, cymbals, baskets of fruit, and lanterns.

Like several of the eight Chinese artists gallery director Judith Tolnick Champa has assembled here, Wang draws nostalgically on past artistic models to mull his hopes and doubts about China’s present direction.
Read the rest here.

“China seen by…” University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center Galleries, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston, Rhode Island, Oct. 2 to Dec. 9, 2007.

Related: I’ve written about some of the artists in the exhibit before. Here’s my review of Burtynsky’s show at Tufts University in Somerville in February. And here’s my view of a May group show at Brown University’s Bell Gallery that included work by New Yorker Sze Tsung Leong.

Pictured: New Yorker Lois Conner’s “Wanchai, Hong Kong,” 1988-91; Beijing artist Wang Qingsong’s “Past, Present and Future,” 2001; Beijing artist Hong Lei “Speak, Memory….,” 2005; and Toronto artist Edward Burtynsky’s “Manufacturing #10 a + b, Cankun Factory, Xiamen City, China,” 2005.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kenneth Jay Lane

Here’s the beginning of my review of “Fabulous Fakes: Jewelry by Kenneth Jay Lane” at Providence’s RISD Museum:
The New York-based, RISD-trained costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane once said: “Every woman wants to be Cinderella when she puts on jewels. Faux jewelry is like wearing glass slippers. A woman can feel she’s going to the ball, even if she’s not.”

“Fabulous Fakes: Jewelry by Kenneth Jay Lane,” organized for the RISD Museum by Henry Joyce, a Providence-based independent curator, presents more than 400 of Lane’s costume jewelry earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, rings, belts, and watches, all drawn from Lane’s own collection. It’s a fun, bubbly exhibit. Lane isn’t about exquisitely refined craftsmanship, but about bowling you over with big, bold, fabulousness. It’s the triumph of style over substance.
Read the rest here.

“Fabulous Fakes: Jewelry by Kenneth Jay Lane,” RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St., Providence, Oct. 26, 2007, to Jan. 27, 2008.

Pictured: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Necklace (1970s), necklace (ca. 1980) and necklace (1985). Courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane. Photography by Erik Gould, RISD Museum of Art, 2007.