Uo Zukushi Ayu Tenpo by Andō Hiroshige (Volume 1)

Books on Ukiyo-e from the Russell Estate

The McCaw Foundation Library at the Asian Art Museum recently received a generous gift from the estate of Harry A. Russell.  Mr. Russell, a native of the New York City, was an aficionado of Ukioy-e, a style of Japanese woodblock print. His collection of books on the subject includes an extensive encyclopedia of prints, many exhibition catalogues, and several guides for the preservation of Ukioy-e prints. Xiaojin Wu, SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, accepted the donation on behalf of the library from members of the Russell family.

These donated books contain a wealth of rich pictorial content, as evidenced in these images from Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten = Color Illustrated Encyclopedia of  Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten, c1981):

 

Uo Zukushi Ayu Tenpo by Andō Hiroshige (Volume 1)

Uo Zukushi Ayu Tenpo by Andō Hiroshige (Vol. 1)

Kenyu Hujo Ooiko by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Volume 9)

Kenyu Hujo Ooiko by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Vol. 9)

Ukioy-e is a type of woodblock print that became popular in Japan during the Edo period (16th– 19th centuries). The colorful figures and landscapes depicted in the crisp, rich colors of these prints created a substantial surge in the popularity of Japanese art at home and abroad. The influence of Ukiyo-e can be seen in western art styles such as Impressionism and Art Nouveau.

 

Amerika Yokohama Honmura Honmakido by Andō Hiroshige (Volume 9) Print depicts an American woman wearing an Indian bonnet on a horse.

Amerika Yokohama Honmura Honmakido by Andō Hiroshige (Vol. 9)
Print depicts an American woman wearing an Indian bonnet on a horse.

Musashi Nono Tsuki, from the series 月百姿 Moon Hundred Gesture by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Volume 9) Yoshitoshi brough one wolf to the vast field of Mushashino.  The wolf sees his reflection on the surface of water.  Yoshita expresses the loneliness of the wolf.

Musashi Nono Tsuki, from the series 月百姿 Moon Hundred Gesture by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Vol. 9)
Yoshitoshi brough one wolf to the vast field of Mushashino. The wolf sees his reflection on the surface of water. Yoshita expresses the loneliness of the wolf.

Shoshin by Tanaka Kyoukichi (Volume 1)

Shoshin by Tanaka Kyoukichi (Vol. 1)

Yueh-Lin Chen, Associate Librarian at the McCaw Foundation Library, is working with volunteers to catalogue the Russell donation. The titles will be easily retrieved by searching for “Harry A. Russell” through a keyword search in the SAM Research Libraries’ online catalogue (OPAC). A catalogue search for “Ukioy-e” will bring up many books about the general genre of Ukioy-e, as well as books about the ways Ukioy-e has influenced western art.

We would like to thank the Russell family for this generous donation.

– Yoshiko Boley and Kate Nack, McCaw Foundation Library Volunteers

These and many other books about Asian art are available for consultation in the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art, located on the lower level of the Asian Art Museum. Library hours are Thursday and Friday from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, and Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Teen Night Out

One Night Only: Teens Take Over SAM!

What better way to end the year than with a banging celebration? The Seattle Art Museum is hosting its popular Teen Night Out this Friday, December 5—an action-packed night of live music, art-making workshops, and art tours—just for teens.

You can dance the night away to DJs and bands in Seattle, including a headline performance from the all-female surf rock group, La Luz. Wander around on an art tour to see all of SAM’s collection, including the two featured exhibitions. Pop Departures is an electrifying bold collection of pop art commentary on American culture over the last 50 years with works from iconic artists such as Andy Warhol.

City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India showcases the many complex influences behind Indian’s urban culture through photos and sculptures, .

Seattle’s hottest contemporary artists will lead fun art making workshops based on the two exhibitions. Have your face painted to look like one of Roy Lichtenstein paintings, complete with a speech bubble or get your hands painted with beautiful henna designs.

You can also create your own art, which will be made into a collage that will be on display at the Teen Center at the Seattle Central Public Library.

The best part? That’s just the beginning and the entire event is free! You don’t even have to register.

So join us for an unforgettable night!

-Bianca Sewake, Seattle Art Museum Communication’s Intern

National Gallery

Pictures and Words: National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman

One of the abiding pleasures of my job is that I get to spend so much time in museums—not just the Seattle Art Museum, but great institutions throughout Europe and the United States. That’s where I spend my business trips, and many vacations too. Working in a museum, I am familiar with the teamwork and myriad decisions that go into creating collection installations and exhibitions. Now a gorgeous new film, Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (playing December 5-11 at the Northwest Film Forum), invites viewers to watch the activity behind the scenes at one of the finest collections of European art in the world, London’s National Gallery.

Wiseman edited down hundreds of hours filmed on-site to craft a paean to the art of looking. We observe masterpiece after masterpiece–close-up, within the grand architecture of the galleries, and unframed in the attic conservation studio. We observe people—the professional staff of the Gallery, which includes the director Nicholas Penny, curators, educators, marketing specialists, scientists, framers, conservators, art handlers, maintenance staff—as well as studious visitors who scrutinize these paintings looking for answers or just marveling at the talents of great artists of the past.

In contrast to many documentaries, there is no narration, no interviews, and no identification of the speakers. We take a fly-on-the-wall position and watch the business of the museum unfold in a non-hierarchical way. The closest thing to a dramatic crisis is a series of conversations among museum staff about whether the august Gallery should succumb to marketing opportunities to appear more hip and reach a broader audience. I was fascinated to recognize that the National Gallery–which has free admission and welcomes over five million visitors annually—is as concerned as we are at SAM to understand our audiences and develop programs with their needs in mind. But in a film that lasts nearly three hours, this is just one of many activities that hum through the museum, seemingly no more or less important than installing a new lighting system, managing a blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, or conserving paintings.

The curators and conservators have unparalleled knowledge about the works of art in their care, but their conversations here are often quite insular and subtle. For me the heroes of the film are the talented and passionate gallery educators who are marvelously effective in helping visitors to understand what the artist was trying to do all those years ago under circumstances that feel quite foreign to us today. All of these dedicated professionals prize active looking, as does Wiseman. He lets scenes unfold in real time, which will require an adjustment from viewers used to quick-paced, plot-driven films. But patience has its rewards, and in the final scene the film achieves poetry as a pair of dancers perform in an empty gallery before two of the most moving works that Titian ever painted. These wordless moments where music, dance, and painting come together resonate with a power beyond all of the eloquent words that came before.

–Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture

Image: Courtesy of Zipporah Films.

Pop Departures Photo Booth

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…

With a permanent collection that spans the globe, featured exhibitions Pop Departures and City Dweller’s: Contemporary Art from India, special Seattle holiday events such as SAM Lights at the Olympic Sculpture Park, and extended hours, a trip to the museum is a great way to spend the holidays.

Bring your family, friends, or out-of-town guests and have fun wandering around the galleries and interacting with fascinating pieces. Stop by SAM Shop or SAM Books for Pop art mementos, and turn your selfies into a work of art by stepping inside our Pop photo booth, selecting a Pop art filter, and snapping a shot!

SPECIAL EXTENDED HOURS

  • 10 am-­5 pm Tuesday, December 23
  • 10 am-­5 pm Tuesday, December 30
  • 10 am­-5 pm Tuesday, January 6 (Pop Departures final week)

The museum is open on December 24 (closing early at 3 pm) and New Year’s Day (10 am to 9 pm which is First Thursday).

HOLIDAY CLOSURES

  • Christmas Day

Please call 206.654.3100 for more information about SAM exhibitions and programs, or visit the our website for up-to-date scheduling and hours.

–Bianca Sewake, Seattle Art Museum Communications Intern

Image: Some lovely SAM visitors in our Pop Departures Photo Booth!

Caring for our Collections

Mr. Kawazu surveying - Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu studies Japanese paintings at SAM for the Mellon conservation survey

Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu studies Japanese paintings at SAM for the Mellon conservation survey

 

In 2013, the Seattle Art Museum received a generous three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of programs and initiatives in Asian Art. We dedicated the grant to two important areas for any museum: conservation and curatorial work. Through the grant, we will foster even better understanding of SAM’s rich Asian art collection and we will also forge new relationships with Asian museums, curators, artists and scholars. With these aims in mind, SAM staff visited a select number of partners in Asia last year and we welcomed two fascinating visitors in October 2014 in connection with this project.

Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu examines a painting on the light table for the Mellon Survey

Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu examines a painting on the light table for the Mellon Survey

A major goal of the Mellon grant is to conduct a comprehensive conservation survey of SAM’s great collection of Japanese painted scrolls and screens. The funding enables us to bring Japanese paintings conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu to SAM two times per year for the next three years to document the Japanese paintings collection, with specific focus on the materials and preservation state of each painting. In early October, Mr. Kawazu was at SAM for the first residency, during which he conducted a marathon evaluation of seventy-one Japanese paintings in two short weeks. Working closely with Chief Conservator Nicholas Dorman, Collections Care Manager Marta Pinto-Llorca and Project Coordinator Rachel Harris, Mr. Kawazu examined each painting, documenting its condition with detailed notes and close-up images. In spring 2015, Mr. Kawazu will return to evaluate a second group of Japanese paintings. Two important spin-offs of the survey are that the grant enabled us to set up a work station, equipped with the highly specialized tools and materials of the Asian paintings conservator. We are also able to take new photographs of all the surveyed objects, with SAM conservation staff shooting macro shots, inscriptions and other details and photographer Spike Mafford taking high-resolution shots of a selection of paintings.

Spike Mafford and his assistant photographing paintings for the Mellon survey

Spike Mafford and his assistant photographing paintings for the Mellon survey

Ukiyoe, Figure of a woman, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.1689. The Mellon conservation survey provides unprecedented documentation and new photography of works like this that hail from the earliest days of the collection

Ukiyoe, Figure of a woman, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.1689. The Mellon conservation survey provides unprecedented documentation and new photography of works like this that hail from the earliest days of the collection

The curatorial track of the Mellon grant is also moving ahead. While Mr. Kawazu was examining Japanese paintings, Eunju Choi, Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) was also in residence at SAM. The Mellon grant provided funds to bring Ms. Choi to Seattle so that she could begin planning an exhibition with Xiaojin Wu, SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean art. Tentatively planned for late 2015, this exhibition will offer Seattleites a look at contemporary Korean art never before seen in our city.

While in residence at SAM, Ms. Choi gave a sold-out lecture titled: Korea Now: Contemporary Art from the MMCA, Korea. Her talk highlighted MMCA exhibits and offered insight into the work of important contemporary Korean artists. If you weren’t able to attend Ms. Choi’s lecture, check out this article for an overview of her talk: http://www.nwasianweekly.com/2014/10/vibrant-korean-contemporary-art-set-arrive-seattle/.

In very different ways, the conservation survey and the new curatorial collaborations give a terrific boost to our collection legacy and our Asian programs, we look forward to sharing its progress with you over the next two years.

 

Rachel Harris

Project Coordinator for Asian Art Collaborations

 

Nicholas Dorman

Chief Conservator

 

Xiaojin Wu

Curator of Japanese and Korean Art

 

Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu and project coordinator Rachel Harris work on the Mellon survey to document the condition of Japanese paintings

Conservator Tomokatsu Kawazu and project coordinator Rachel Harris work on the Mellon survey to document the condition of Japanese paintings

 

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Mr.’s Caterpillar (or: The Importance of Living On)

When we arrive at the Asian Art Museum, the Tateuchi Galleries are filled with cardboard boxes. Each room has a low tower built up in the middle, away from the walls. You can see flashes of a panda sticker on many of them, the logo of a moving company. Some of Mr.’s paintings are already hung, and a few are leaning against the walls. In a couple of places, an 8.5×11 piece of paper with a picture of a painting is taped to the wall with masking tape, giving us a clue of what will be going there.

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The paintings are huge—much larger than we would have guessed—the size of entire gallery walls. We watch as four art preparators carefully lift and place one panel of three, sliding it along a rail toward the other two until you can just barely discern the seam.

Mr. is sitting at a folding table, working on a laptop. He’s surrounded by printouts of his paintings, plans that show how to build the installation in front of him, and photographs he’s taken. He wears a striped hoodie and glasses and jeans, and he seems perfectly happy to take a break and talk about what he’s working on. He doesn’t speak much English, and I speak no Japanese, so we chat with the aid of SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, Xiaojin Wu, and Mr.’s assistant, Kozue, who’s also based here in Seattle. The necessary triplicate of the interview means we move through the galleries slowly, standing amidst the cardboard boxes and the sounds of drills nearby. Everyone is so patient it’s hard to tell how much time is passing.

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The installation he’s stationed in front of is the centerpiece of the exhibition, a tribute to the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku tsunami and ensuing earthquake. Most recently, it was shown at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York. When it’s finished, it’s about the size of a train car, made up of what Mr. calls “stuff.”

Right now, it’s just a skeleton made from pipes and plywood. It looks something like an erector set, and Mr. refers to it affectionately as the “caterpillar.” The art preparators working in this gallery say that it’s like putting together a puzzle. They have sketches to follow, but they’re not exact, and they’re figuring it out with Mr. as they go. It will be a massive structure, made up of hundreds of everyday objects of Japanese life that Mr. spent three months collecting. Some crates were shipped from New York City, where they were stored after the Lehmann Maupin show. Some crates were shipped from Japan. Mr.’s translator points out a box of curry, emphasizing that all of these are real things used every day in Japan. I ask if the installation changes every time he constructs it, and he says it’s hard to keep it the same, so by nature it varies. Mr. is creating new paintings with which to surround the installation. And this is the first time that Mr.’s photographs of the aftermath of the tsunami will be on display.

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During the tsunami, Mr. was living in Saitama, Japan, just outside of Tokyo. One hundred days after the tsunami hit, Mr. went to the site and took hundreds of photographs. He pulls his laptop off the table to show me some of the pictures and brings it with us as we look at the wall where they’ll be plastered in a collage from bottom to top.

“I went,” Mr. says, which sound a bit like a pronouncement because in the midst of all the Japanese, he says it in English. Which—this one is. He went there. He saw it in person. He witnessed.

A hundred days after the tsunami, he explains, means it was almost summer. There was a factory nearby that had been making canned fish, and it smelled terrible. While Mr. looks through his photos to find what he wants to show me, I ask Xiaojin why she thinks it’s important that Seattle see the artwork.

“I think at the beginning we were attracted to Mr.’s work because of the tsunami installation. The tsunami was such a huge event that impacted so many Japanese people’s lives that you can look around and almost all the Japanese contemporary artists, in some way, have responded to it. But Mr.’s response is quite unique. He uses the daily items he collected. But he also went to the place and documented the aftermath, so I think it’s very meaningful for us to show that. And somehow, even though his main body of works is made up of paintings, some of the works he made even earlier tie into that idea of disaster and how we respond to it. We think it will be very interesting for the Seattle audience to see a different perspective of Japanese Pop art. Even though the paintings look like anime/manga, they are not just about this—even they have more to them, a little bit deeper meanings. You can get a bit deeper, see beyond the surface…beyond those big eyes, those smiles.” Xiaojin laughs suddenly as she references the happy-go-lucky anime faces, like there’s something bubbly just in talking about it.

Mr. draws my attention to his laptop and shows me the photos of collapsed buildings, tipped cars, downed power lines. Everything looks askew, and gray, covered in silt and dust. In some photos, Mr. is wearing a mask.

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“When you first went to the tsunami site, did you experience it more as an artist, looking to make artwork, or were you just there to see and experience it as a citizen, as a civilian who’d been part of this disaster?” I ask.

Both Xiaojin as she listens to my question in English, and then Mr. as she translates it into Japanese, nod solemnly. Mr. talks for a long time.

“He was saying the tsunami just impacted everybody in Japan, everyone in the entirety of Japan,” Xiaojin starts. “So he never thought, I’ll go in there as an artist. He just wanted to go and see and experience, but after this experience, his thoughts have just changed so much, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster was also, after…it’s still going on.”

Mr. starts speaking again as Xiaojin slow down. She murmurs in agreement as he talks, a thoughtful sound.

“He says there are two types of people that the tsunami had an impact on. One is directly those people who lived there, lost their home, and really, they probably had the worst damage. But the second kind is just like him, who didn’t really directly experience the tsunami but they lost power, or water, or the supermarket didn’t have enough supplies, so they experienced it indirectly. But just on different levels, everybody was involved.”

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The next week, when I go back to the Asian Art Museum, the installation is nearly complete. Above the screen that blocks gallery access, I can see a mattress, folded into a u shape over the top of the structure. The installation crams so many pieces of life together that it seems impossible it will hold, in the way an over packed suitcase may burst open at any moment. It’s about trauma, but also about the possibilities of what will come next.

The title of the installation? Give Me Your Wings – think different. No wonder Mr. has nicknamed the skeletal structure the caterpillar.

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop is now on view at the Asian Art Museum.

Words: Maggie Hess, Copywriter
Photos: Natali Wiseman & Stephanie Fink

A Portal to the Past

Have you ever looked at an art work at SAM and thought, “I bet there’s a great story behind that?” I think this all the time. Today, a friend of mine tells us a fantastic story that she imagines lies behind a needlepoint image. Her story, a portal to the past, is about a work that looks like a painting but was made by a young girl from tiny, tiny stitches in thread. This story is written by Lorelei Timmons-Herrin, a fifth-grader at Whittier Elementary school (my friend, and daughter of SAM head librarian Traci Timmons). 

Do you have any stories to tell about the art at SAM, or the art in your home? If so, please share it with us in the comments!

-Sarah Berman, Curatorial Associate for Collections

Needlework mourning picture, ca. 1805-07, Eliza Gravenstine (American, Philadelphia, 1792-1821), embroidered and painted; watercolor paint on silk, approx. 24 x 28 in., Gift of Ruth J. Nutt, 2014.24.44

 

NEEDLEWORK MOURNING PICTURE

I made this picture to remind people of what cholera did to us living in the 1800s.

It was a cold sad day as I trudged through the mud to my brother’s grave. He had died of cholera two years ago. I was only eight years old then. I miss him a lot. I shall tell you all my story.

“I want John to get better mother” I whined.

“I know you do, but we haven’t found a cure yet” my mother said. I could see she was getting inpatient. My mother was a strong woman, she had raised all three of us all alone. My brother, John loved reading and writing, he was a caring young man. My sister, Samantha loved reading like John. She also likes playing with our kittens. And there’s me, I love doing needlework.

You can see that my mother (in the middle) is decorating the grave. My sister (on the right) is holding an olive branch, a sign of good luck. I am (on the left) mourning for my dead brother. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I cried many times in the making of this picture.

SAM Art: Honoring Veterans

Relief fragment with warrior and horse, 668-627 B.C., Neo-Assyrian (ca. 1045-610 B.C.; modern Iraq), Nineveh, Southwest Palace, Room XXXIII, stone, overall 17 1/4 x 22 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 57.54. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

Relief fragment with warrior and horse, 668-627 B.C., Neo-Assyrian (ca. 1045-610 B.C.; modern Iraq), Nineveh, Southwest Palace, Room XXXIII, stone, overall 17 1/4 x 22 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 57.54. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

WHEREAS it has long been our custom to commemorate November 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by redirecting ourselves to the cause of peace; and

WHEREAS in the intervening years the United States has been involved in… other military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation…

NOW, THEREFORE I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe… November 11… as Veterans Day.

 

-Presidential proclamation on the first Veteran’s Day, 1954

 

 

The Seattle Art Museum and Asian Art Museum are closed on Veteran’s Day. The Olympic Sculpture Park is open today until 30 minutes after sunset.

SAM Art: Vote!

City Fathers, Hoboken, N.J., 1955, Robert Frank, American, born 1924, gelatin silver photograph, 14 3/4 x 18 7/8 in., Pacific Northwest Bell, the Photography Council, the Polaroid Foundation, Mark Abrahamson, and the National Endowment for the Arts, 84.116. © Robert Frank. Not currently on view.

City Fathers, Hoboken, N.J., 1955, Robert Frank, American, born 1924, gelatin silver photograph, 14 3/4 x 18 7/8 in., Pacific Northwest Bell, the Photography Council, the Polaroid Foundation, Mark Abrahamson, and the National Endowment for the Arts, 84.116. © Robert Frank. Not currently on view.

Today is Election Day—don’t forget to vote!