Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time Stands Still

The Art Institute of Chicago's Ando Gallery reopened this week after being closed most of 2010, along with the Buckingham, Sheridan and Weston galleries of Japanese Art. The renovation left Ando almost unchanged: even the exhibit is the same - Contemporary Japanese Ceramics - which makes one wonder if the AIC really understands the value of this interior space, since they apparently thought "no big deal, we can just re-open with the same stuff." The door to the gallery has been removed, which makes it feel more accessible, but also lessens the previous sense of sanctuary.
We're told Tadao Ando's design is intended to evoke the traditional Japanese home interior, as a contextual setting to enjoy screens. Read Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's "In Praise of Shadows" for insights into the lighting, surfaces and atmospherics of a traditional home.
Lighting is the primary change to the gallery where we have become accustomed to seeing a remarkable set of Japanese prints rotate through the gallery every few months. The renovation seems to have brightened and opened up the space. The reopened gallery starts its new life with more recent prints from the Beem collection.
What doesn't work is the tokonoma in Gallery 106. If you are attempting to depict the interior dynamics of an alcove to a room, you can't do it by making the alcove a display case behind glass. It's not an alcove, it's just another museum display. And the fake "window" on the side is a throwback to museum cheesiness of fifty years ago, or more. See TimeOut Chicago for an amateurish rendering. Gallery architect Kulapat Yantrasast is touted by the Art Institute as a "close associate" of Ando. Close, but no cigar.
The Weston, now uncomfortably empty in the center, displays a selection of "floating world" paintings on the perimeter. Most remarkable is a pair by Kaigetsudo Doshu, identified here as "Standing Beauties in (Green/Blue) Kimono." Gestural strokes mark out broad contours, while the patterns they enclose are rich but flat, as textiles and paintings are. A Kaigetsudo School painting illustrates this post.

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