We’re a little preoccupied with science today, what with the Transit of Venus and all. If you’re not too busy creating a pinhole camera or donning your eclipse glasses, you may enjoy this video. Artist Heman Chong talks about Singapore, science fiction, and identity.
Archive of Posts by Janet Brunckhorst
Manager of Web and Digital Media, Asian Art Museum
Last week, staff at the museum were fortunate to have guest curator of Phantoms of Asia Mami Kataoka present to us on the themes of the exhibition.
While spirituality is a core part of this show, Mami invited us to approach it from another perspective, saying that we could think of Phantoms as being all about light and space.
Mami showed us some examples of works from the Light and Space movement that resonate with works in this show. But the most fascinating part for me was a more literal example. Filipino artist Poklong Anading creates arresting photographs by having people hold a small hand mirror in front of their face; a flash of light, reflected by the mirror, obscures the face and transforms the image. In a piece of curation that strikes me as both whimsical and utterly inspired, also included in the exhibition are some Chinese hand mirrors from the museum’s collection, polished to regain their reflective properties. While the creator of the bronze mirror pictured probably wasn’t thinking about identity and transformation, it is such an object that enabled Anading to create compelling works exploring those themes.
Mami’s reference to light and space has given me a new entry point for thinking about these works. I know next to nothing of Asian contemporary art, but she reminded me that we are free to make our own connections: through time and space, across cultures, and between art and everyday objects. We hope you have the opportunity to do the same.
Last night we opened Phantoms of Asia with our first ever public preview party. While the shochu shots were surely popular, the hit of the night as far as art was concerned was undeniably Takayuki Yamamoto’s What Kind of Hell Will We Go. The work features pieces created by local elementary school students alongside Yamamoto’s video of their presentations; fortunately the film is subtitled, because the rocking party atmosphere drowned out the sound! There was a crowd in front of the installation all night, and for a while Yamamoto himself was in the thick of it, adding to the excitement. Check out the video for more on Yamamoto’s process in creating this work, plus some charming children making art.
If you didn’t make the party we’re sorry you missed a great night. But the art is here until September 2, and tomorrow (Saturday, May 19), admission is free thanks to Target.
The lotus breathes! This afternoon, Choi Jeong Hwa’s kinetic sculpture, Breathing Flower, was inflated opposite the museum in Civic Center Plaza. Check out the images and video below, and join us this weekend for a Day of Dialogue with artists and a sneak peek at site-specific installations.
Sunday is Mothers’ Day. Whether you think this is a sacred day to celebrate everything your Mom has given you or a cynical attempt by greeting card companies to fleece you of your May paycheck, chances are you’re planning to do something special for your Mom. Here are five reasons we should be on your list:
1. Your Mom took you to museums. On rainy days, on Saturdays, on holidays, your Mom stood in line with you outside. She looked at bugs with you. She encouraged you to pore over old swords and dinosaur eggs and she patiently followed you as you sprinted through her favorite art museum. So now it’s your turn.
2. Surprise your Mom with a gift membership; she can enjoy the museum year-round, as well as take advantage of discounts and special offers. If you buy a membership during your visit we’ll take off the cost of her admission ticket, too.
3. We’re open late Thursday (till 9 pm), so you can stop by on your way home for a last-minute Mothers’ Day gift from our store.
4. Sunday is going to be a beautiful day. Treat Mom to lunch on our outdoor terrace and enjoy a first glimpse of Breathing Flower, a motorized 24-foot red lotus that will be installed on Saturday May 12 in Civic Center Plaza.
5. There’s plenty here for you, too. Many of our Phantoms of Asia artists will have installed their works in our galleries, so it’s a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of them. And you and Mom can visit old favorites and discover new ones. We don’t have any dinosaur eggs, but we do have the odd sword.
Maurice Sendak, children’s author and illustrator, died today. For those who loved his books it’s a great loss.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Asian Art. Granted, not a lot. But it has to do with how we think about children, and what we share with them. Sendak’s work is dark, exploring some of the grimmest topics a child could be exposed to. He didn’t believe in sheltering children from the real world. He had a deep respect for the ability of children to deal with complex and challenging themes. For an insight into Sendak’s work, check out this recent interview from The Colbert Report.
Phantoms of Asia, which opens on May 18, is in many ways a challenging show. As a parent, I am wondering how my three-year-old will react to the images. I wonder if he should even be exposed to some of them. I have been speaking with other parents here at the museum about how we plan to address some of the questions that could come up: about death, about violence, about sex. We will all have different ways of dealing with these questions, depending on the age of our kids, our own experience, our parenting styles. But we’re all bringing our children to see the show. We all feel there’s something in it that will be enriching for them. And I can’t speak for the others, but for me I know that Maurice Sendak is part of the reason that I feel prepared to engage with this material: not just as a parent, but as a person.
Vale, Mr. Sendak.
Last week we told you that Sun K Kwak had started work on her site-specific installation. She’s still working, and her ethereal piece now stretches almost the entire length of North Court.
Over the next two weeks, Kwak will be joined by Charwei Tsai, Heman Chong, Adrian Wong, Takayuki Yamamoto, Jompet Kuswidananto, and Jakkai Siributr, all of whom will be in the galleries installing their pieces. These artists work with materials as diverse as self-adhesive labels (Heman Chong) and live plants (Charwei Tsai), so it’s safe to say that the installations will be like nothing we have ever seen at the museum before.
Most of the artists will be working in public view, so if you’re in the museum you may catch a glimpse of a work in progress. The busiest days are likely to be May 10th and 11th; plan to come in on one of those days if your heart is set on seeing artists at work.
What happens when an artist is suddenly inspired? She gets to work, of course. Artist Sun K. Kwak was scheduled to begin her installation on the first floor of the museum next week, but a flash of inspiration has brought her in today.
We don’t know how long she will be working this week and we don’t know when she’ll be done. As our exhibition manager Kelly put it, “This is kinda like whale watching—things just happen.” We are watching art performed and made in real time. If you’re able, you should join us.
Artists from Phantoms of Asia will be installing their work in our galleries over the next couple of weeks.
Check back here for updates about who is coming when. We promise you’ll know as soon as we do.
We’re not new to tattoos. Back in 2008 we had tattoo artists work one of our Matcha evenings (you can see the video here). Taking the connection between Asian art and tattoo culture a step farther, we recently partnered with Marcus Kuhn’s online documentary project Gypsy Gentleman to film the third episode in the series.
Marcus plus tattoo artists Jason Kundell and George Campise spent nearly a full day at the museum. We see them pondering the beauty of the collection and seeking inspiration for tattoo designs, telling the viewer in one scene: “that is just dying to be tattooed.” The show explores their artistic process through to the execution of three original tattoos on eager volunteers, including one brave soul from our Marketing and Communications staff. Check out the episode, and tell us your Asian art related tattoo stories in the comments.
We’re about to say farewell to Maharaja: the Splendors of India’s Royal Courts, so of course the galleries are getting crowded. If you’re anything like me, you’re kicking yourself for leaving it so late and trying to balance your desire to see the show before it closes against your fear that you won’t enjoy it because there will be too many other latenicks crowding the art. Well, we’re here to help you out.
If you have a flexible schedule, Tuesday morning is a great time to come. It’s our quietest period, so you may even have some galleries to yourself. We’re open from 10 am; grab a coffee from Ma’velous on Market St and then wander over for a morning of art.
Of course, Tuesdays are quiet for a reason—most of us are working. That’s why we open late Thursdays. Come down after work and enjoy discounted entry ($10 gets you in to Maharaja) from 5 pm to 9pm. Afterwards you can grab a bite to eat in Little Saigon; we’re fans of the phó at Turtle Tower, just a couple of blocks away on Larkin St.
If you don’t mind crowds and you don’t want to blow your budget, Target Free Sundays are the way to go. Thanks to Target, on the first Sunday of every month we offer free general admission, with Maharaja only $5. It can get busy so we recommend coming in early. One of our visitors suggests breakfast at Brenda’s (which also gets mighty crowded), followed by a stroll down the hill to the museum. Our last Target Sunday before Maharaja closes is April 1, so put it in your diary now.