February 1, 2006:

[achtung! kunst] Seattle: Asian Art Museum reopened

nwasianweekly.com, Jan. 21, 2006
Asian Art Museum reopens in grand style
By N.P. Thompson
[image] “Scholar With Two Roosters,” a 19th-century Chinese hanging
scroll by Jen I, is part of the exhibit “The Orchid Pavilion Gathering.”
(Photo by Patrick Young)

At the newly reopened Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, the
scrolls of a master calligrapher are on display now through April 2 in
tandem with an exhibit on Chinese painting that spans eight centuries.
As if the contrast of these adjoining art forms (painting evolved from
calligraphy) weren’t enticement enough, there’s an ongoing configuration
of Buddhist sculpture that rounds up representations of Buddha from as
far back as eighth-century Korea.

Add a Koran-inspired video installation by the Iranian filmmaker Shirin
Neshat, in which the soul of a woman merges with the soul of an ancient
tree, and you have a multitude of reasons for visiting SAAM this winter.

Looking through “Fragrance of the Past: Chinese Calligraphy and Painting
by Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel and Friends” gave me the intimate feeling
that I was in the artist’s studio. The tools of her trade — the brushes
made from different types of animal hair, the seals by which she presses
red stamps onto the periphery of her scrolls and the ink — are all on
display, along with the finished works they were used to create. But
then Frankel, who will turn 92 this year, has a way of converting nearly
any space into her workshop; in her travels, she always carries paper
and brushes, practicing calligraphy in hotel rooms and at friends’ houses.

Born in Shanghai in 1914, she began copying calligraphic masterpieces
from age 5, and by the time she was 9, her classical education in poetry
and painting had begun. She sang in kunqu opera (“The Peony Pavilion”
was a particular favorite of Frankel’s; two costumes that she wore in
past productions, including a dramatic red cape, are in this exhibit
too), played zither and flute, and taught Chinese art at Yale for 23
years. The painter is also an accomplished poet, and her husband of 55
years, the late Hans Frankel, translated her verses into English. Her
imagery in “Autumn Thoughts,” meticulously scripted on a fan-shaped
scroll, weaves indelible magic:

In my dream of returning home
The smartweed blossoms are red
At days ending the floating clouds scatter;
Softly humming, I stand in the evening wind.

The most historically significant work in this collection is the 1944
figure painting “Lady Playing the Lute.” The lady, with her eyes closed
as she cradles the stringed instrument, would be beautiful on her own,
yet surrounding her on either side and above are inscriptions of poems
by admirers within the young Ch’ung-ho’s circle of literati. Red Guards
confiscated the scroll during the Cultural Revolution, and it was
thought to have been destroyed. The “Lady,” however, surfaced unscathed
at a 1991 auction. A key to its survival: One of the approving
inscriptions was penned by Zhang Shizhao, a teacher whose most famous
student was … Chairman Mao.

Among the 60 scrolls in “The Orchid Pavilion Gathering: Chinese Painting
From the University of Michigan Museum of Art,” the one that leaped out
at me involves a damsel in a different kind of distress. “The Goddess of
the Luo River” (circa 1847) depicts a female figure who appears to be
floating along, shivering on a sea of nothingness. Her head tilts to the
right, and she clings to a peach-colored blanket that envelops her
narrow frame. The blanket billows (against the wind? the water?) and
ribbons trail beneath her. Scholars attribute the painting to Fei Danxu
(1802-1850); but while questions remain as to the “authorship” of the
picture, no one can dispute the haunting quality of its subject, the
ambiguous fate of a young woman, fluttering and isolated in a background
of white.

The exhibits “Fragrance of the Past” and “The Orchid Pavilion Gathering”
are on display from Jan. 14 to April 2 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum,
1400 E. Prospect St., in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. For more information,
visit www.seattleartmuseum.org.




with kind regards,

Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)



To (un)subscribe or to access the searchable archive please go to:

For postings earlier than 2005-02-23 please go to: