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An Autumn Airing

Enter Exhibition

14 September – Winter, 2023

An Autumn Airing was inspired by memories of late summer/early autumn in Japan when temples and shrines would engage in mushiboshi, “drying insects.” All manner of art and accoutrement—for example, a 13th-century book bag, centuries-old monks’ clothing, precious paintings, or even wooden storage boxes—would be laid out in the fresh air to dry out moisture, kill mold, and dispatch insects. Currently, temple holdings are often stored in secure facilities off-site but the practice continues, the troves returned home for the airing, providing an opportunity for a public viewing of treasures otherwise usually out-of-sight.

We begin our autumn airing with an image of a hawk on a branch, painted in ink on silk in the autumn of 1427 by Zhu Zhanji, the Xuande emperor. The painting is a compelling image that not only conveys natural strength and prowess but serves as a symbol of those qualities, the emperor usually settling on subjects for his paintings that would captivate and impress on more than one level. The painting is also a glimpse into how a painting can be tweaked, changed or manipulated after its creation to fit someone’s particular agenda. While the inscription on this painting was likely altered in the distant past, this practice did not end in the past and just as all of us in the field are on a constant watch for fakes, this kind of manipulation also keeps us on our toes.

Huang Zhongfang, Harold Wong (1943-2022), on the other hand, settled on no more than brushwork and ink and the inherent rhythms they embodied and projected as subject matter, nor did he seek to persuade, seduce or impress. We celebrate Harold’s life and oeuvre with a monumental painting that Harold pulled out to show us after a great dinner in his flat in Hong Kong over two decades ago (cat. no. 8). We simply had to have that painting and it now brings vividly and joyfully to mind evenings of shared food and drink and endless conversations that went far beyond Chinese art and culture as we would talk about novels we were reading or TV shows or movies that we either loved or deplored. Although we aged together, we are the ones left behind to mourn but also to live in these memories.

We acquired no. 10 in the exhibition, a painting by Ki Baitei, from our good friend Steve Addiss (1935-2022). We’ve had it for many years and show it here in his memory. Steve was essentially introduced to us by Howard’s parents who had seen these fellows, Addiss & Crofut, performing folk music in Marin County on their way home from entertaining troops in Vietnam. The parents did not hesitate to reveal their discovery: Howard simply had to meet Addiss as he like Howard was besotted by Asian art. And so they met and a long friendship ensued. Over many decades Steve’s brilliance as a calligrapher, musician, composer, professor, poet, painter, author, translator, potter, and more, revealed themselves. In our Spring 1997 we published an essay by Steve on the artist Rinkoku (1779-1843), the two sharing manifold talents and boundless intellectual curiosity, and Steve the perfect interpreter of Edo period literati culture. Steve brought that culture to life in our 64th St. gallery during that Spring exhibition through demonstrations of seal carving, painting and calligraphy, koto playing and sencha tea drinking. A “Literati Day” at Kaikodo. Steve often gifted his friends with chawan, tea bowls, that he had made, presented in wooden boxes with their poetic names inscribed on the lids; such are among our most cherished personal treasures.

The further paintings and other works of art in the exhibition were selected as we have been doing our own survey of conditions here in our storage facility on the Big Island Our hearts go out to the challenges faced especially by historic temples, the keepers of cultural treasures in environments challenging in myriad ways.

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