Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seasons: Japanese Screens

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

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.

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