Tibet is a place contested in contemporary imagination as well as politics. Gone are illusions of Tibet as Shangri-la, described by James Hilton in his novel of 1933–a utopian society cut off from the rest of the world and little touched by the corrosion of time. New illusions of a secular modern society that retains its distinctive Tibetan culture have arisen in the Autonomous Region of Tibet (TAR), part of the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Tradition Transformed offers vantages on this rapidly changing ground from eight artists with ties to traditional Tibetan painting.
Tradition Transformed offers vantages on this rapidly changing ground from eight artists with ties to traditional Tibetan painting. Four of the artists were born in Tibet, three in neighboring Nepal, and one in India. Only two among them currently reside in Tibet. All locate their artistic challenge and response both within the Tibetan tradition and on a world stage.
The more than twenty works of art exhibited bring features of traditional Tibetan art into view even as they are questioned, claimed, and transformed by contemporary artists: religion as artistic stimulus; training in methods and styles particular to a workshop and master; water based pigments and earth and mineral colors; particular formats and imagery. Some artists use the traditional ground mineral pigments; one makes use of beer cans, another stickers. The eldest among them was born in 1961, the youngest, in 1981.
They serve, as artists often do in times of cultural upheaval, as agents of transformation and mirrors of change.
The exhibition was organized by the Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) in New York City, and curated by Rachel Weingeist. RMA opened in 2004 to focus on historical art of the Himalayas—a rich and relatively unexplored dimension of Asian culture, producing art for Buddhist and Bon patrons in the form of murals, paintings, sculptures, ritual objects, and manuscripts, along with an extensive literary tradition. Tradition Transformed is the first foray by RMA into contemporary Tibetan art, and recognition of the continuing distinctive imprint of a long tradition. For a wider public less familiar with traditional Himalayan art, this focus is instructive not only in showcasing active agents of transformation in the present, but also as a point of departure in either temporal direction—into the past or towards the future of Himalayan culture.
The artists represented in Tradition Transformedin Dallas are Dedron, born in 1976; Gonkar Gyatso, born in 1961 Losang Gyatso, born in 1953, Kesang Lamdark, born in 1963; Tenzin Norbu, born in 1971; Tenzing Rigdol born in 1982, TsherinSherpa, born in 1968, and Penba Wangdu, 1969.