In the Company of Spirits
The title of this exhibition, “In the Company of Spirits,” held in our gallery in New York between March 16 and April 17, 1999, was inspired by the various funerary objects that accompanied the soul in the afterlife and has several additional levels of significance. Centuries after their creation these works of art are still able to make manifest something of the spirit of those times past. Painting and calligraphy especially can be profoundly imbued with spirit on many levels, embodying in a single stroke or in the work as a whole the mind-spirit of the artist. Paintings can convey the spirit of the images depicted, the spirit of mountains and water, rocks and trees, and they can also serve to evoke the spirit of long gone times and places. The calligraphy album by Dong Qichang, to take one example, evokes not only the 17th-century context of its creation but also, through verbal and visual statements by the artist, conjures quite clearly the entire history of calligraphy from its beginnings in the second century down to our own time. Objects which have inspired joy in their use or admiration through their study bring us into the company of our distant predecessors in these pleasures and endeavors. Possessing an essence very much its own, the zitan painting table, for example, will make manifest to most viewers the esprit of the literati world. It is our hope that this exhibition will illustrate some of the connections or bridges between the intangible world of the spirit and the corporeal-and therefore mortal-world in which we all now live.