Sunday, January 1, 2012
Seasons: Japanese Screens
When: through January 22, 2012
If the Sackler is my favorite of the Smithsonian museums, then the Freer is a close second. It was also quiet during this busy holiday week, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle which is the National Mall at the end of December.
This exhibit is another in the Freer's year-long examination of the role of the seasons in Chinese and Japanese decorative arts. Japanese screens have both a practical and an aesthetic value - I am reminded of William Morris' idea that one's home should contain nothing except that which is beautiful or useful. This is a way to have something that meets both criteria. Screens were imported from China and Korea originally, but the Japanese soon learned to make screens themselves. They served two purposes: as partitions to define space and as a format to display art.
I most liked Cherry & Willow Trees with Poem Slips. This represented the 17th century equivalent of a poetry slam - people would gather to drink tea and sake, and tie poems to the trees as an offering to the gods.
Verdict: This is well worth the small amount of time it takes to see - there are only a few screens on display as each one is quite large. A trip to the Freer is always lovely, and this show is no exception to that rule.