Yesterday I had a lovely time visiting an old haunt of mine, the Asian Art Museum, and taking in two new exhibitions: Jayashree Chakravarty and Lam Tung Pang’s Memento and Zheng Chongbin’s I Look for the Sky.
Both exhibits are wonderful, each in its own way. Chongbin’s exhibit makes use of the space not only via abstract canvasses on grayscale on huge sheets of calligraphy paper, but also via an impressive light installation. The outside oscillates and strobes, and the inside has a visceral quality that communicated with Buddhist theme of impermanence and the concept of Maransati. Flashes of a skeleton, internal organs, tissues, muscles, bones, appear on the lower screens, while on the upper screens everyday objects flash: a banana, a wicker basket, shoes, a hammer… as Yesterday’s Monsters readers know, I’ve been very interested in the Tibetan Book of the Dead and in the concept of the bardo, and the parade of mundane objects against the viscerality and aesthetic of the perishable body put me in a place of unmediated trance about my own temporality. This is exactly the quality I (misguidedly) looked for in the New Orleans Museum of Death, and it was overpowering here.
Memento was a milder, but no less exciting, artistic experience. Jayashree Chakravarty put on a map (perhaps a heart-guided map, more than an accurate geographic description) of her hometown on a huge composite paper and built a round shelter out of it. It felt exciting to be inside and look around. And Lam Tung Pang did an ingenious installation, which consisted of a big canvas with drawings, illuminated by projectors. In front of the projectors were miniature objects: a little bird on a branch, a man climbing a hill, palm trees. The little objects cast shadows on the canvas at exactly the right places to fit in their right place in the installation. It was beautiful and a reminder that all objects we see are, really, a light reflection of themselves.
I caught a little bit of Videos of Resistance, but not enough to review it. Frankly, what I’ve seen of pandemic-inspired art at SFMOMA and elsewhere was of mixed quality, which is to be expected given the circumstances. But I was delighted to see these wonderful installations. One downside of the amazing new work on the ground floor is that I seldom have time to go upstairs and take in the Asian Art Museum’s excellent permanent collection; however, with Hastings moving toward in-person opening next year, I’ll have an opportunity to go whenever I have a free moment.