Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hark, The Sound Of One Hand!

The new poster for The Sound of One Hand, opening October 1.
Japan Society’s upcoming gallery exhibition, The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin, approaches! Outside our main doors, the 2010 JAPAN CUTS poster was retired this week and replaced by the new Hakuin poster.

The exhibition opens on October 1, 2010 and runs until January 16, 2011. It promises to be a fascinating display of the finest paintings by Zen monk and artist extraordinaire Hakuin.

Hakuin’s exact dates are unknown, but historians generally agree that he was born circa 1685 and died in 1768. While Hakuin’s work as an artist is deservedly well known, he considered himself a religious figure above all. The classic Zen koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” actually originated with Hakuin, and was a big part of his revival of the major Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. In fact, most of his art was not created for the marketplace, or commissioned for temples. They were meditative exercises or meant as gifts for other monks who needed encouragement or advice.

Hakuin Ekaku, Seated Daruma, Seen from the Side. Ink on paper, 42 1/2 x 14 6/8 in. Ginshu Collection. Photo: Maggie Nimkin.
Co-curators and Zen scholars Audrey Yoshiko Seo and Stephen L. Addiss have pulled together 69 of Hakuin’s most notable works for this exhibition. Hakuin’s work is fairly typical of many Zen painters’ in that they were executed quickly and spontaneously, with a variety of techniques including fluid, deft lines, rough dark strokes, ink washes, and delicate calligraphic marks.

Hakuin’s subject matter varied much wider than many of his contemporaries. His output includes portraits of great Zen thinkers like Bodhidharma (the semi-mythical founder of Zen Buddhism), flora and fauna, and whimsical illustrations for Zen parables. His style was also very fluid. Some works have a fine attention to detail, and are conservative in design and execution, while others have brutal, bold, intentionally inelegant brush-strokes. The latter was a style that Hakuin himself was instrumental in developing, and later became a major evolution in Zen art.

Hakuin Ekaku, Hotei Watching Mouse Sumo. Ink on paper, 14 5/8 x 20 5/8 in. Ginshu Collection. Photo: Maggie Nimkin.
Japan Society has a fine history of Buddhism-related exhibitions, most recently: Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan in 2007, and Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan, which The New York Times called one of the best exhibits of 2003.

For this show, Japan Society offers a number of Zen-related programs. Also opening October1, the mini-exhibit oxherding is a series of contemporary ink paintings by Max Gimblett, in collaboration with poet Lewis Hyde, based on the famous Zen parable. Yoshi Oida, the great Japanese actor of stage and screen, performs his one-man show Interrogations about a Zen master’s test to determine his pupil’s enlightenment. In addition lectures abound and family events presented by our Education Program promise something for all ages.

Keep an eye out on this blog for more articles and more of Hakuin’s paintings leading up to the opening!




his works are great and with humor

Dieter said...

Hi all,
Great humour the Zen Koan: Hark the sound of one hand. One hand clapping?!
Reminds me of this question, worthy of a Koan - Why don't one-armed people like fishing? Answer: They are frustrated showing friends how big their fish was they caught.
Dieter Fischer