October 2014 – February 2015
Sweetness without a tinge of irony is out of fashion. Distance from sweetness is more often invoked as a measure of difference between high and low taste. Sweetness, however, is central to the work of B. G. (Banwarhlal Giridharlal) Sharma, whether in his designs for commercially produced prints, which dominated the Hindu market in the second half of the 20th century, or in his finely painted works in precious mineral colors on cloth, paper, or ivory. His painted works, catholic in subject matter, were individually signed and sold or presented on behalf of the Indian government to international dignitaries.
When Sharma’s subject is the “Eternally Sweet” Hindu god Krishna, as in the paintings and prints gathered for this exhibition, the full colors of his talent and conviction are on display.
This exhibition proposes that visitors set aside habits of viewing that resist sweetness with labels such as “kitsch,” or dismiss pictures that tug at sentiment as invasive. These are pictures that rest on ethics of long cultivation and refinement and address sense awareness with a sophisticated understanding of human nature. They seduce with friendly but frank eroticism. They demand to be looked at, to be communicated with, and to be indulged by our reason.
Compositions ask for acceptance of an amalgam of conventions, and images make use of “realistic” tools—shading, perspective, light shining from eyes that directly engage ours—to portray figures of mythic dimensions, impossible perfections. We are asked to feel sweetness as real, to perform it through visual acceptance, and to give it in return.
This approach to Sharma’s work is guided in this exhibition through texts that accompany each image and are drawn from the rich literature—puranas, poetry, songs, and prayers—sustaining Krishna worship in many languages. This textual material will touch upon the Krishna story or theater (lila) of his human lifetime, the way of life followed by devotees of Krishna known as Pushti Marg, or “Path of Grace,” and the cults around charismatic poet-saints who established the practice of bhakti, or devotion, to Krishna in the sacred region of Braj, described in many of the pictures on view. On this path, access to Krishna is obtained through mutual auspicious looking (darshan) enacted with votive paintings and sculptures and performed through various relationships with images such as those on view.
With reflection on this context, sweetness reclaims flavors of dimensions where it is embraced. Sharma’s depictions of Krishna’s chaste seductions of the cowherd girls, care and love of cows and kin, deep mutual bond with Radha, and honor to duty offer Krishna not as stolen candy but as sweet milk. It is this first nourishment, the promise of joy, and even as license for dessert, that answers to the fundamental human cravings for friendship, acceptance, mother-child joy, protection, communal bonds, love, and rhythms of satisfaction in patterns of everyday life. They are an art addressed to the divine that is human.
The twenty Sharma paintings included in the exhibition are on loan from collector and philanthropist Henry Flood Schoellkopf, who obtained them from the artist. The prints are drawn from the collections of pioneers in this field, Marc Baron and Elise Boisanté, and the Richard Davis Archive at Bard College.
Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji Mandir Hare Krishna Temple is a community partner of this exhibition.
Due to construction, the Members’ Day of Devotion for Friends of the Crow Collection has been temporarily postponed and will be re-scheduled. Check back for more updates.
In the late 1960s, Mary Baskett was curator of prints at the Cincinnati Museum of Art. A graduate of Wellesley College with a Master’s degree in East Asian art history from the University of Hawaii, Baskett was already well-traveled throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Hong Kong. In pursuit of the work of contemporary printmakers, she began travelling to Japan where she found intriguing avant-garde fashion. She began avidly collecting and wearing these clothes, particularly those of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo, then little-known outside of Japan. In the 1970s and 1980s, Miyake, Yamamoto, and Kawakubo shocked the fashion world with their post-modern “anti-fashion” garments characterized by asymmetry, raw edges, unconventional construction, oversized proportions, and monochromatic palettes. While maintaining many differences, these artists often reference elements of traditional Japanese dress in their designs, merging conventional features with avant-garde concepts.
Issey Miyake (b. 1938), originally a student of graphic design, apprenticed in the ateliers of Guy Laroche and Givenchy in Paris and Geoffrey Beene in New York before founding Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970. Miyake has been a leader in technological innovation in fashion, and has worked with textile engineers to develop new materials and manufacturing processes however perhaps the most important concept behind Miyake’s work is that each garment allows for customization by the wearer, allowing for a creative dialogue between the designer and consumer.
Yohji Yamamoto (b. 1943) is known for his Zen-like focus on materials and processes, resulting in unconventional garments that reference historical styles but incorporate deconstructed elements and reject the idea of the perfect fit. His garments are simple, unembellished, and often monochromatic. His primary inspiration, however, is the fabric itself. “I often tell my patternmakers, ‘Just listen to the material. What is it going to say? Just wait. Probably the material will teach you something…’”
Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942) states that she has always been “on a mission to challenge conformity.” She founded her company, Comme des Garçons, in Tokyo in 1973, and debuted her collection in Paris in 1981. Without even a basic knowledge of sewing, Kawakubo fell into designing clothing while working as a stylist for a Japanese advertising agency. Her commitment has always been to form over function and her work echoes the abstractions of visual artists and the spatial concepts of architects. Kawakubo’s designs reflect her philosophy, “What is beautiful doesn’t have to be pretty.”
This permanent exhibition devoted to the art and culture of the Japanese samurai showcases one of the Crow Collection’s most recent and spectacular acquisitions—a complete set of samurai armor, one of the finest examples of its kind anywhere in the world. The suit of armor was originally created for Abe Masayoshi (1700–1769), the daimyo (a powerful landholding ruler) of Bingo province from 1715 until his death. In addition to components crafted by the best metalsmiths of the day, the armor includes a hoshi kabuto, or traditional Japanese helmet, made by the renowned armorer Neo Masanobu.
This exquisitely crafted and perfectly preserved suit of armor would have been worn by Abe Masayoshi during his time at the capital, where formal ceremonial attire was often required. The exceptional quality and attention to detail applied to every aspect of the armor’s creation made this suit stand out as a garment of sophisticated refinement, and distinguished its wearer as a man of fine taste, setting him apart from other provincial daimyo. Like other daimyo families during the Edo period (1603–1868), the Abe clan had two residences; all daimyo were required to participate in sankin kōtai, or the “alternate attendance” system, residing in their home domains and at the shogun’s court in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in alternating years. The Abe family’s administrative center was therefore located at Fukuyama Castle in Bingo Province (Hiroshima district today), and Abe traveled between the home domain and Edo. All the while, the wives and heirs remained in Edo, essentially as hostages.
Following centuries of political turmoil and years of warfare, the Edo period was a time of peace. Daimyo such as Abe Masayoshi were vassals of the Tokugawa shogunate. Representing the higher echelons of society, the shogunate and daimyo espoused the dual samurai virtues of bu (military arts) and bun (literary arts). During the Pax Tokugawa years, however, with essentially no wars to be fought, the culture of bun became more prominent as samurai functioned as bureaucrats, engaging in scholarly and cultural pursuits to maintain their status as the cultural elite. In this changing political environment, the suit of armor became a powerful and important symbol, embodying samurai existence of centuries past while continuing to emphasize their significance.
The exhibition also includes a 17th-century pair of Kasen-zu byōbu, or battle screens, which depict the important historical battle of Yashima from the Genpei War (1180–1185), which was fought between the Minamoto and Taira families. Specific battles from this epic war, which led to the transition from the Heian period (794–1185) to the Kamakura regime, became popular as subjects for screens and paintings centuries later. These screens graphically depict the horrors of war during medieval Japan, with over 450 warriors in action, either on horses, in boats, running, or in the water, wielding their long swords and shooting arrows. In the lower right of the first screen is a palace ablaze, the one built for the child emperor Antoku, who eventually met a tragic death, being thrust into the ocean with his attendant rather than live through the dishonor of captivity.
This exhibition presents a selection of choice works from the Museum’s permanent collection of art from India, focusing on a few significant time periods and geographic areas.
The exhibition’s earliest period of focus is Gandhara, part of the overland trade routes that linked the Hellenistic world that blended Near Eastern and classical Greek cultures, with Central Asia, India and China. Buddhist sculpture, like the museum’s head of a Bodhisattva carved in gray schist, and architectural reliefs from the 1st through 7th centuries CE incorporated styles from classical Greece and Rome. This early cosmopolitanism that later traveled to China, Japan, and Korea, as well as other parts of India.
The northeastern Pala empire (8th – 12th centuries) in what is today Jarkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Bangladesh, was one of the last strongholds of Buddhism in India. This region was the home of many important pilgrimage sites and monastic study centers, and much Pala sculpture relates to classical themes of the life of the Buddha as seen in the Crow Collection’s stele of the Shakyamuni Buddha Preaching. In the later Pala period, the sculpture of Hinduism was created with similar stylistic treatment. Not surprisingly, small stele sculptures were common to both religious traditions, as temples were constructed out of brick, adorned with freestanding sculpture that fit into wall niches.
Chola period (9th – 13th centuries) sculpture developed as an integral part of the grandiose stone temple complexes build by rulers and arts patrons that encouraged a flowering in the visual arts and architecture as well as poetry, dance, drama, and music. Schools and colleges were located adjacent to temples. In addition these temples served as banks, archives, libraries, public records offices, and performing arts venues for dance, drama, and music as well as visual arts including architecture, stone sculpture, painting, and bronze sculpture.
The art of the Mughal period (16th – 19th centuries) reflects the refinement of life at the emperors’ courts as well as the diversity of Indian folk art that thrived outside of the courts. There was also local patronage of religious art of Hinduism and Jainism that existed in parallel with the rulers’ Islamic faith. Ceremonial daggers like those in the Crow Collection were important parts of ceremonial adornment at the Mughal court. Realistic animal imagery carved into bejeweled dagger hilts is an example of the influence of Indian sculpture like the Museum’s exuberant, brightly painted horse sculpture from Pondicherry, a Tamil region under French rule.
Throughout India’s history, there was a continued attention to the art of Jainism, one of India’s three classical religions along with Buddhism and Hinduism. Devotional sculpture like the Museum’s white marble “Conqueror” or Jina, was part of the significant arts patronage by the Jain community that resulted in breathtaking temple complexes, many of which are located in the northwestern states of Gujarat and Rajasthan alongside Mughal and Rajput architecture.
More than anything, the pieces of art in this exhibition invite visitors to connect with India’s rich and varied historical periods and to celebrate the interesting connectivities across time and place.
Meditation in the Galleries with the Kadampa Meditation Center Texas
Sundays | 2 – 3 PM | Free
Learn meditations to relax body and mind, achieve inner peace, and develop a kind and patient attitude towards others. All levels of experience welcome. Space is limited; no reservations required.
Join each week day morning for a short meditation to set your intention for the day and gain peace and calm.
Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri
Ray Lee enjoyed his career as Investment Counsel for a few local families. “I spent more than a decade telling people to simplify and focus their resources. One day, I decided to take my own advice.” Over the next year, Ray liquidated his business and sold most of his belongings. “A guy can waste his entire life trying to be successful in the eyes of others. But, if he stops trying so hard, he’ll see an opportunity to get in tune with his true nature…where success seems to come effortlessly.”
Douchka has been teaching yoga, meditation and Ayurveda around the United States, Spain and Mexico, for over 10 years. In 2011, she co-founded Yana Shala, an educational platform, that provides education, tools and support for personal development. Besides her yoga work, Douchka also co-founded Intercultural Translations, a translation company, with a global presence and team members all over the world.