Art from Thirteen Asian Nations
Seattle. Luminous: The Art of Asia, on view from October 13, 2011 to January 8, 2012 at SAM Downtown, presented a lush and rich experience of the art from thirteen Asian nations, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and India. Do Ho Suhs thoughtful commentary illuminates these precious works and makes them relevant for todays contemporary audience. It show is exhibiting the jewels of Seattle Art Museums (SAM) Asian collections, featuring 160 of the museums masterpieces including paintings, screens, sculpture, ceramics, stone, wood, lacquer and metal ware. All objects come from the Seattle Art Museum, home to one of the finest collections of Asian art in North America. The exhibition opened on October 13, 2011, marking the first time these objects have been assembled in a major exhibition at SAM Downtown.
Invited to provide a contemporary response to the historical material, artist Do Ho Suh (born 1962) has created a new multimedia installation for the exhibition. In addition, his observations spiced the text panels throughout the show, by adding more perspectives. Born in Korea and living in New York and London, Suh is the creator of SAMs famed dog-tag sculpture Some/One (2001). Curated by Japanese art historian Catherine Roche, the objects in Luminous range from 1,500 year-old Buddhist fragments, dazzling golden screens and bold ink paintings to rare Tibetan mandalas, exquisite Japanese kimonos and gossamer Korean bojagi. A small selection of the museums newest acquisitions in contemporary Asian painting, ceramics and photography is also on view. In addition, the show opened an animated dialogue about art and Asia, beauty and vitality through excerpts of conversations with Do Ho Suh.
Suhs reflections have also shed light on the challenging aspects of museum practice: The museum is a space of displacement. Every object in a museum has been moved from its original context and placed on a pedestal. It is all flattened out. A tenth-century Buddhist statue sits next to a Joseon dynasty ceramic bowl.
A 4ft tall Japanese statue from the 14th century, a 6ft tall seated Chinese Buddhist icon from between the 10th and 13th centuries and a small Indian bronze Buddha were presented, along with videos, images and information about new research on each piece. In the case of the Japanese figure, X-ray computed tomography movies of the object was presented. In this technique, objects were X-rayed while moving through a scanning device to produce thousands of slices of the piece. These slices were assembled by the computer to provide a fascinating glimpse of the interior of the sculpture. Here, the visitors also saw the hollow center of the sculpture, glass eyes, wood decay, insect channels.