Religious images live Switched-On, Off circuit life. I remember walking in the National Museum of Kyoto, Japan, some years ago, which has in its ranks of Buddhist sculpture, and be stopped by a single piece, not because it was particularly beautiful – it’s was not – but because a vase with a single fresh flower was placed before him as an offering at a temple. I kept the picture because someone – a guard? a visitor? – He told me to think in terms not often in museums, it was important, a personal spiritual form.
This dynamic is worth keeping in mind during the exhibition in majestic silence “Myanmar Buddhist Art” at the Asia Society. You will not see offerings of flowers, but with hands, eyes, minds of devotion is this art is about. Even if your interest is purely aesthetic or historical, the show is a find, because chances are you have not seen a lot of this kind of art before.
In 1962, Myanmar – he named Burma and is trapped in South Asia between India and China – has closed its doors to the world and put the keys for almost 40 years. As obsessed military surveillance system, few outside could enter, and few could go inside, including art. It was the art of Myanmar in the West – England and Germany had done as colonial bandits were – but few in the United States.
Read also : 18 Myanmar Noble Arts
Finally, in the 2000s, Myanmar has been restored prudent international contact and began advertising in the interest of tourism, cultural wealth. Loans art became possible, one of the first major at the Metropolitan Museum of “Lost Sculpture Hindu-Buddhist Kingdoms of South Asia in early” last year. Even then, at the last minute, they promised items were retained, although the extraordinary things that came through, the most important monumental stele carved stone on both sides, non-Buddhist figures dating seemingly mysterious about the fourth century.
The wake, not yet cracked the code, is also at the Asia Society, but it is one of the two objects, the other a silver statue of Buddha, shared by different exhibitions with the intent and scope. The Met was a horizontal survey of about 160 works from throughout Southeast Asia date within a period of time. By contrast, the Asia Society has met less than 70 parts have a vertical look to the art of a country through a long history.
When the trail was carved, Myanmar has been dominated by several regional ethnic groups, including one called Pyu produces a lot of surviving art. Its main religion seems to have been a custom shape locally brought Buddhism from India, but originally from Sri Lanka monastically centered, based on the population of the deities that developed in the Himalayas Scripture and Pali missing.
Read also : Bagan Archaeological Museum
The Buddha-monk who is a recurring image in the show, which was organized by Sylvia Fraser-Lu and Mr. Donald Stadtner Adriana Proser. The first things you see in a gallery on the second floor are small statues of metal or stone to bless and preach and wrapped in a simple dress. What is for rituals, worship or pilgrimage and private memories, everyone is basically a mobile communication device, a smart phone spiritual remained close for use on the road or at home. The most compact of all, one inch long cut white quartz Buddha, it was rubbed almost featureless, as if the constant manipulation.
Sometime after that was carved in the eighth or ninth century, the Pyu inexplicably disappeared from the disk, and another group on Monday, with a capital in Bagan (formerly Pagan), became dominant. Polite friendly Mon ,, Art is surprising for its stylistic diversity. In the center of the gallery is an impertinent, two feet high bronze Buddha cast in the 11th or 12th century with head high, feet, shoulders back, he has the confidence of a champion swimmer before a balance immersion.
Another Buddha, however, the same time and place, the carved wood, has a very different behavior. With its box-shaped body, rounded shoulders and downcast eyes, which is the image of humility, despite wearing a crown of luxury. But even with contrasts of materials and mood, the two characters share DNA. You see a subtle family likeness – large, square face, smile cupid bow – and evidence of Indian influence artists Myanmar, since then, slowly back would.
Read also : History of Myanmar Arts
A conventional exposure could go this time out, step by step. This does not. As if recognizing the complexity of the cultural history of Myanmar and the huge gaps in information – field research is still blocked by government control – the curators of Asia Society they have wisely kept his show not not by time but by the subject, the main one is the practice of devotion.
This gives them the freedom to mix all sizes, uses and periods, and really go for it. Just around the corner from the Pyu figures tiny, they installed an imposing piece of religious theater: a sanctuary of lacquered wood, bright with golden glass and cutting and higher, the level landing, ceiling, with a Buddha Bejeweled sitting there. Here, we jump from ninth to the 19th century, when Myanmar became a British colony. Worlds have changed, but the Buddha is always there, watching monk master-of-universe – Buddhism has always had a friendly side of martial rule – but as unflappable as always smiling.
And as always, early and late, stories about him are in the air, on the lips of the faithful in art and illustration. Some are moral tales about their lives before Buddha. In one, a favorite in Southeast Asia, which was born as a prince named Vessantara, who, in a mad campaign charity, gave everything he had, including two children. You can see the download of parents during a wall of sequins embroidered velvet sequins, gold thread and imported flannel wrapped Colombia.
In his life as Vessantara, Buddha won their karmic wings and reborn only other one last time as Prince Siddhartha. In recent years, Siddhartha lived an existence bubble baby. But the new reality, cold and hard, infiltrated. I knew I had to face, and one night he left home for good, his horse carried in the air by the gods of hoof beats will not be heard. Then finally, after years of self-research, he came to a light to let go, but not before some celestial goodniks not tried to block their way. We see two of them, arms, green skin, bulging shot, slamming through a tile 15th century temple.
Technically, they are demons, but they are also great fun, as are many of the players support Buddhism with folk-art additives. These include ogres guards with faces like pugs with fangs and half-bird, half human bodies and nymphs people with good dancing and fluttering stained glass, say goodbye to the end of the show.
But before leaving, there are a few things that are worth an extra look. One, in a case between the two nymphs, is an image of 17th century gilt bronze seated Buddha. With its short neck, cool haircut shape-up, single shoulder dress, round face and leaned forward and down, is as close as any work here Myanmar comes to embody a Buddhist ideal physique.
Read also : Ancient Stucco and Plaques arts in Myanmar
If their importance is mainly historical art, the second figure is, at least potentially, more personal. This, from the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Bagan, is bigger, older – the 11th century – and carved in sandstone. Also a seated Buddha, has earned in recent years after a popular religious as the prototype of a venerated image ardently perceived in the local shrine.
In the Asia Society, in my eyes, the room seem little charismatic. A few years ago, someone ran all traces of paint that once illuminated the figure. And the surface of the sandstone, which can be as sensual, clean, sanded, dead look. But pilgrims Bagan Museum visitors do not care about all that. Belief provides color, texture, life. In the museum, they bow and pray. Religious art, no matter where you find it in many world works this way.