Hark, The Sound Of One Hand!
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’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.
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!