THE LIGHT OF INFINITE WISDOM: ASIAN ART
FROM THE GODWIN-TERNBACH MUSEUM AND OTHER COLLECTIONS
- Exhibition October 15 - December 20, 2003 at Queens College;
Asian Cultural Festival Offers Performances, Lectures, and Family Events -
FLUSHING, NY -- Designed to increase awareness of the artistic and cultural traditions of Asia, “The Light of Infinite Wisdom” exhibition at Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum will highlight a wide range of artworks associated with Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, and Taoism. Open to the public from October 15 through December 20, 2003, the exhibition will display more than 90 objects, including artworks from China, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, Tibet, and Sri Lanka.
This exhibition--and related Asian cultural performances and activities at the college this fall--are a collaboration of five Queens College areas: the museum, art department, education division, Asian/American Center, and Colden Center for the Performing Arts. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Amy Winter, the museum’s director and curator; Dr. Xiaoping Lin, a Queens College professor of Asian art history, and their graduate students in Asian art and museum studies. There will be an opening reception on October 23 from 6-8 pm at the museum.
Exhibition Art Objects
The objects chosen for “The Light of Infinite Wisdom” present Asian art from global perspectives. The installation explores the common artistic heritage of Asia and cultural ties among the many nations and peoples of Asia. The uniquely combined artworks reveal the shared artistic traditions that have inspired Asian artists throughout the centuries. They will be displayed in five sections, described below under “Exhibition Design.”
Objects have been loaned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (BMA), Kaikodo Art Gallery, the Rubin Museum of Tibetan Art, the Kang Collection of Korean Art, and private collections in Queens and New York City. The Godwin-Ternbach Museum’s own collection of Asian art consists of more than 200 objects from pan-Asian cultures from the second millennium BC through the 20th century, including sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, paintings, woodblock prints, decorative arts, lacquers and textiles.
Exhibition Design: The Five Pillars of Wisdom
1. Buddhism: A world religion originating in India and founded by Shakyamuni Buddha (563-483 BCE), Buddhism teaches spiritual purity and freedom from human desires. This central strength of the Museum’s Asian art collection is illustrated by two majestic stone sculptures from India and Thailand; and ethereal bronze and wooden figures of Bodhisattvas from China and Japan. Highlights include: Seated Bodhisattva from Gandhara (1st-3rd c. A.D., India); Buddha Muchalinda (12-13th c., Thailand); Standing Bosatsu (1333-1615, Japan), One of the Twelve Heavenly Generals (1333-1392, Japan), Zen Buddhist Figure (ink scroll by Kanó Tanyú, 1602-1674, Japan); Seated Kuanyin (1279-1368), and paintings of the Buddha and Prince Siddhartha (19th c., Thailand).
2. Hinduism: Hinduism: A religion, philosophy,and cultural practice of India, its main tenets are reincarnation and desire for liberation from earthly evils. Its principal gods are Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma displayed in various forms including: Tribal Mask of Shiva (18-19th c., Buta Tribe, Kerala); Seated Tara (15th-16th c., Nepal, Brooklyn Museum ); Shiva and Parvati (10-11th c., Courtesy o f A. Lieberman ).
3. Islam: Founded by the prophet Mohammed in Arabia in the 7th c., Islam believes in one God, Allah, whose revelations were received by Mohammed and recorded in the Koran, a complex legal and social system. Islam shares beliefs with Judaism and Christianity and accepts parts of their scripture, as perfectly expressed in the Koran. Islamic objects on view include: Mamluk Mosque Lamp (19th c. French export); Prayer Rug with mihrab (18th c., Ghiordes, Anatolia); and Bowl with Equestrian Figures (late 12th c., Raayware)
4. Confucianism: A social ethic, political ideology, and scholarly tradition, Confucianism exerted a profound influence on the spiritual, political, and artistic life of China, Korea, and Japan. Founded by Confucius (c. 551-479 BC), it emphasizes morality, ancestor worship, loyalty, obedience, and education. Confucianism assimilated Buddhist and Taoist ideas in an amalgamation known as Neo-Confucianism, which served as the guiding philosophy of Ming and Qing China (1368-1911), Choson Korea (1392-1910), and Edo period Japan (1603-1867). Artworks in this section include Han, Wei, Tang and Song dynasty (202 BC-AD 1127) burial ritual objects, including Chinese tomb figurines, ceramic vessels, and bronze mirrors like Animal Tomb Figure (618-906 Tang, China), Funerary Pillow with Floral Decoration (960-1127, Song, China), and Confucian Portrait of Ancestors (19th c.), which reflect Confucian filial piety and ancestor worship.
For over 3,000 years, Confucianism permeated Chinese poetry, calligraphy and painting. Exhibition examples includes masterpieces of scroll painting from the Metropolitan Museum and Kang Collection of Korean Art like Ch’en Ku’s Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion (Ming dynasty); and Yang Ki-hun’s (1843-1898) Geese in a Marsh (19th century, Chosun Korea).
5. Taoism: Based on the teachings of Lao tzu (ca. 6th c. BC, China), Taoism is present in all Asian countries, especially Korea and Japan. It seeks immortality through breath control, diet, exercises (taiji), sexual continence, and chemical elixirs. The goal of Taoism is profound, joyful, mystical, and practical in its aim to achieve harmony with the universe. Meditation, spontaneity, simplicity, and balance between yin (the feminine) and yang (the masculine) are stressed. A newly discovered Qing dynasty scroll painting, Lu Dongbi Receiving He Xiangu (1644-1911) and an Openwork Container with the Eight Immortals(17th or 18th c.), serve as exhibition centerpieces. Tang Yin’s Gazing at a Waterfall (1368-1644, China), Mirror with Paradisal Celebratory Scene (618-906, Tang China, Private Collection), and God of the Eastern Mountain (1114-1234, Jin, China) further demonstrate Taoist ideals of oneness with nature.
Curators and Consultants
Dr. Amy Winter (Director and Curator of the GTM) has been an administrator, curator, and educator in major New York museums and professor within the City University of New York and State University of New York for the last 25 years. Co-curator Dr. Xiaoping Lin (Professor of Asian Art History), born and educated in Beijing, received his PhD from Yale University, served as Assistant Curator of Asian Art at the Brooklyn Museum, and has taught art history at Queens College since 1996. His graduate students also co-curated this exhibition. Amy Poster, Chief Curator of Asian Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (who also acted as editorial consultant for the catalog), and Arnold Chang, Director of Kaikodo Gallery in New York City and a former expert in Chinese painting at Sotheby’s, are exhibition consultants.
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the only museum in Queens with art from ancient to modern times as well as the only museum within the City University of New York, houses more than 3,000 works of art. These include Egyptian, Greek, and Asian antiquities, and pre-Columbian, African, and Pacific culture artifacts. Roman and Islamic glass, Renaissance and Baroque sculpture and decorative arts, as well as paintings and drawings by masters of all periods highlight the collection. Drawing on its own artworks and loan exhibitions, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum seeks to reflect the diverse nature of Queens College and the borough of Queens. Founded by art historian Frances Godwin and art restorer Joseph Ternbach, GTM had its genesis in the Queens College Art Collection begun in 1957; it was officially established as The Godwin-Ternbach Museum in 1980. A program of Queens College, it serves as a cultural and educational resource for students and the larger community.
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum is located in Klapper Hall on the campus of Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, Queens (Exit 24, LIE). Regular gallery hours are Monday and Wednesday, 11 am-6 pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 11 am-7 pm. For more information, call 718-997-4724 or 718-997-4736.
Asian Cultural Festival: From Japanese Drummers to Javanese Puppet Theater
A central objective of the “Light of Infinite Wisdom” exhibition is to celebrate Asian culture in its many aspects through an Asian festival throughout the semester.
Lectures, performances, and workshops will explore themes related to the exhibition and its artworks. Programming includes slide-illustrated talks by scholars and curators including Maxwell Hearn on Chinese scroll painting and the scholarly tradition; and a walk-through of the exhibition with GTM Director Amy Winter. The “Light of Infinite Wisdom” exhibition will enhance the Queens College curriculum, which covers a wide range of subjects on Asian religions, philosophies, histories, and visual arts.