Monday, June 11, 2012

The Printed Image in China, 8th–21st Century

A confession: I know nothing about Chinese art. I can't distinguish a Chinese scroll from a Japanese or Korean one. I often visit the Asian galleries at the Metropolitan Museum but hardly pay attention to the wall texts. I just like the serene space with all those Buddhas and pale ceramics.

Another confession: I have a terrible prejudice against prints. I think of them as applied arts, just like photography. I guess monotypes would be the exception, but I have this notion that printmaking isn't really an artistic activity like drawing or painting, Too mechanical, too mass market, too... unglamorous. I mean, have there been any Hollywood movies about anguished printmakers? I don't think so.

In spite of my ignorance I was quite bowled over by The Printed Image in China, 8th–21st Century at the Met featuring 130 items on loan from the British Museum.

Printing was invented by the Chinese in 700 A.D. as a means of disseminating the Buddhist faith and eventually became a vehicle for secural artistic expression as well as nationalistic propaganda. Unlike Chinese painting, the stylistic evolution of prints from one dynasty to the next is much more obvious and easily grasped for someone like me with no background in Chinese art.

The show is gorgeous and I particularly loved the items from the 17th and 20th centuries. I'm still boggled all the fine nuances and elegant lines as well as the spirit of experimentation. I'm now thinking about taking a print class at the National Academy. At any rate the exhibit has inspired me to learn more about the many facets of Asian art - maybe that will be my project this summer.

The show is on view until July 29, 2012. More images here.

Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)
Date: 9th century
Medium:Woodblock print; ink on paper with added mount and colors
Image: 15 15/16 x 6 11/16 in. (40.5 x 17 cm)
Overall: 21 15/16 x 16 in. (55.8 x 40.6 cm)

Three Equesttrians
Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date: late 17th century
Medium: Woodblock print; color on paper
Image: 11 3/8 x 11 9/16 in. (28.9 x 29.4 cm)
Overall: 22 3/8 x 16 in. (56.8 x 40.7 cm)

Door Guardian
Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date: early 18th century
Medium: Woodblock print; ink and color on paper with additional hand coloring
Image: 18 3/8 x 16 in. (46.6 x 40.7 cm)
Overall: 21 15/16 x 16 in. (55.7 x 40.7 cm)

Calendar Poster with a Lady Hu Boxiang (Chinese, 1896–1989)
Date: 1930
Medium: Photolithograph; ink and color on paper
Image: 45 9/16 x 15 1/16 in. (115.8 x 38.2 cm)

Old Man
Wang Shuyi (Chinese, 1916–1999)
Date: ca. 1947
Medium: Woodblock print; oil based ink on paper
Image: 5 13/16 x 5 1/8 in. (14.7 x 13 cm)
Overall: 22 x 16 in. (55.9 x 40.7 cm)

Mount Huang Series No. 5
Zhao Zongzao (Chinese, born 1931)
Date: 1991
Medium: Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Image: 23 3/4 x 178 3/4 in. (60.3 x 454.1 cm)

Phantom Landscapes III
Yang Yongliang (Chinese, born 1980)
Date: 2007
Medium: Digital pictures; inkjet print on paper
Image: 17 11/16 x 17 11/16 in. (45 x 45 cm)
Overall: 26 15/16 x 20 in. (68.5 x 50.8 cm)

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