History continuously shows that Western influences have played a dominant role in the shaping of many regions of the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere, nation to nation, Western forces have consistently proved their acquisitive nature in conquests of land, people, and resources. Japanese art and culture are no exception to this rule. Walking down the steps leading to American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art, I was met with a silence only broken by the occasional footsteps of security guards lightly pacing the interconnected rooms of the museum halls. The exhibit’s pieces, displayed in a comfortably small space, radiated an air of tranquility and sophistication.
Cornell Association of Medicine and Philanthropy hosted its first annual awareness and benefit gala at the Johnson Museum of Art. The event aimed to support Action Against Hunger, a non-profit humanitarian organization that strives to alleviate world hunger.
“Sometimes I feel like we’re stuck in our own Cornell bubble,” said Salma Shitia ’18. “But to have an entire community and an entire city that also feels that way is very rare, and I’m honestly so grateful that I could attend Cornell and be a part of the Ithaca community where individuals are so kindhearted and open-minded.”
Approximately 800 people are expected to attend the first Senior Gala at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art on April 16 to celebrate the 2016 senior class at Cornell, according to Bobby Dougherty ’16, co-chair of Senior Days. “Every year, students look forward to their last semester and all the fun events to commemorate senior year,” Dougherty said. The Cornellian Senior Gala is supposed to be a wonderful way to celebrate four great years on campus in the classy setting of the Johnson Museum.”
The black-tie event will feature three cash bars, catered food, live jazz performances, three DJs, and two dance floors, according to the event’s Facebook page. Seniors and their guests will walk down the “Red Carpet” when they arrive, greeted by a jazz quartet, Dougherty explained. “As people walk throughout the museum, there will be catered spreads and bars, and they can also enjoy many beautiful art pieces ranging from a laser light exhibit to ink painting from Southeast Asia,” she said.
To my eye, there is at least one major obstacle to curating an exhibition of non-Western traditional artists: striking a balance between educating viewers about the artistic traditions of a foreign culture and letting the art just speak for itself. The Herbert F. Johnson Museum’s new exhibition — Tradition, Transmission and Transformation in East Asian Art — ultimately teeters over to the former side of that conundrum, though it also certainly serves as a thorough exploration of and initiation to East Asian ink painting for a lay audience. That is, the works of art which TTT presents — regal, sprawling, ascetic or harmonious and almost invariably gorgeous — oftentimes seem threatened, in their ability to paint a variegated and brimming East Asian artistic history, by the wall’s expository blurbs which seek to do it for them. The exhibition’s purported goal, as stated on the wall of the Moak Gallery at its immediate entrance, is to explore “how cultural images and artistic styles that originated in China were adopted and adapted in Korea and Japan.” By capitalizing on the sheer mass and breadth of the Johnson’s collection, TTT makes impressive strides towards doing just that. Spanning three rooms and comprised of what must approach (if not more than) 40 different papers and scrolls, the exhibition certainly serves as an adequate compendium of a region’s shared, almost 600-year artistic tradition.
The fire is gone but we have the light submerges the viewer in the density of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s and Korakrit Arunanondchai’s works. Andrea Inselmann curated the exhibition, which is displayed in the Johnson Museum’s Bartels Gallery and presents the viewer with a few works, each staggering in its detail and uniqueness. The featured artists are separated by 25 years of age, but linked by collaboration — Arunanondchai worked on Tiravanija’s “Untitled 2008-11 (the map of the land of feeling)” — and their affinity for intricate works that fill the gallery with information. Both artists pour information at the viewer without worrying if she or he will comprehend everything. Rather, the plethora of images in the work matches the intensity and richness of the international world.
James Siena’s Labyrinthian Structures, which runs at the Johnson from now until Dec. 20, comprises prints of complex geometric patterns that surround a few wooden sculptures. These sculptures, too, are essentially patterns, and they move from chaotic to ordered: Iain Banks is a neat series of interconnected boxes, while the tightly woven Nuisance Value is almost violent in its randomness. Siena describes his work as “rigorously geometric,” and it’s always nice as a critic when the artist supplies you with the perfect term for their work. The key word in Siena’s phrase, though, is “rigorous.” In their near-obsessive linear perfection, the pieces on display recall the eerie consistency of diagrams drawn by computers.
Kiki Smith, print and sculpture-focused artist, eco-feminist, and conceptual thinker, spoke and inspired at the Johnson Museum last Thursday. Distant and warm all at once, she captivated her crowd in such a manner that it seemed as if she were a part of her prints, drawings and sculptures — and not just speaking about it alongside a powerpoint presentation. The particularity of her words gave life and intimacy to her pieces; a body of work that can, at times, feel dissociated from the human experience. Smith, with her long, white hair flowing down her back, and kind, dignified voice, was witty and sweet, as she flicked through her images, the crowd spilling out of the room. More than 150 people were in the audience; Far more than the capacity of the lecture wing of the Johnson Museum.