Sunday, December 30, 2012

Enlightened Beings: Buddhism in Chinese Painting

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

When: through February 24, 2013

Aside from what's on exhibit, I like going to the Freer, because I love the building and the atmosphere of quiet.  I can actually feel my entire body de-stress just by walking in the door.  There's no better time to visit the Freer than over the holidays, as it's fairly empty (as compared with the more popular museums that are jammed with people fleeing their relative-filled houses), and the visitors who are there don't run or shove or yell as they make their way about the rooms.

This exhibit, which focuses on depictions of the Buddha and his closest followers in Chinese painting, is not one of my favorites.  The pieces are quite dark, which makes it hard to appreciate the details of the art.  Also, although they are quite old, I've been spoiled by the "Roads of Arabia" show, and am now impressed only by things that are thousands of years old.

That having been said, it's still worth a trip to see this show, if for nothing else than that it's well laid out, and you get to see several scrolls, which I enjoy.  You only get to see a piece of each scroll, as space does not permit them to unroll the entire piece, but I like their storybook quality, and fancy that if I go to enough shows, I'll get to see everything, just in bits and pieces.

One really old thing on display is a carving of Guanyin (one of the bodhisattavas - enlightened beings who put off their journey to nirvana to aid humans on their own path to enlightenment) made of fossilized mammoth ivory - more than 32,000 years old.  Not that's what I call an antiquity!  The carving is also excellent - amazing detail throughout.

Verdict: If you enjoy the Freer, go see this.  If you're looking for vibrant colors, give it a miss.

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