Monday, February 18, 2008

Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World

Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690-1850 opened Friday at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and runs through April 2008. The exhibition of Japanese paintings from the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has traveled from Kobe, Japan to Nagoya to Tokyo to the Kimbell Museum then back to their usual home in Boston and on to Ontario and now San Francisco. The exhibition is stunning. Hokusai's ukiyo-e woodcuts may be quite familiar but the chance to see his paintings on silk was revelatory. Two paintings in particular stood out:

Hokusai's Woman Looking at Herself in a Mirror (Kyômen bijin zu) is a work of extreme elegance and beauty. A woman stands before a mirror, a cherry seductively lolls in her mouth, and in her right hand she holds a letter. A poem inscribed on the scroll by the poet Shima Tokki reads:

Does that letter from
the man she waits for promise
a summer's night out?

Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849
Woman Looking at Herself in a Mirror
Kyômen bijin zu
91 1/8" x 31 9/16" (Image: 54 5/8" x 22 5/8") ink, color, gold, and mica on silk c.1805
detail - full image below

There is an immediacy and humor in Hokusai's work that seems to beckon us into his view of a vanished world.

Hokusai's festival banner, Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller (Shû Shôki zu nobori), was painted in liquid inks and possibly cinnabar which was thought to provide protection from disease. Zhong Kui's garments seem to rustle in winds brought forth by impending struggles. The Demon Queller is resolute, moving briskly forward, grasping his sword, ready to battle demons, disease or misfortunes that might spring forth on the road ahead.

Katsushika Hokusai 1760–1849
Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller
Shû Shôki zu nobori
92 15/16" x 37" painted banner; color with ink on cotton c. 1805
Images of Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller, were hung in Japan on Boy's Day held on May 5th. In China woodcuts of the Demon Queller were also hung on May 5th during the Dragon Boat Festival.

Another important aspect of the exhibition Drama and Desire is the inclusion of erotic paintings known as shunga which are rarely exhibited. Until recently the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston stored and catalogued these paintings away from the main collection. Eishi's handscroll contains twelve erotic scenes under the title - The Elephant's Leash. The title refers to a Buddhist sutra that describes how a woman's hair could capture even a wild elephant.
Eishi's vivid images imagine how this force could entwine an amorous couple.

Chôbunsai Eishi, 1756–1829
The Elephant’s Lure
13 3/8" x 222 15/16" handscroll: ink, color, gold, and mica on silk 1804–1818

Support for Obama Grows in Texas and Ohio

From the Los Angeles Times:
I see more of myself in Barack than I do in Hillary," said Sergio Zarate, 46, who owns a chain of dry cleaning stores in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. "He's not just going to crack a glass ceiling. He can really kick the door off its hinges, and clear the way for all of us, even Hispanics."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes, We Can - The Barack Obama Movement at Pauley Pavilion

"Before the Obama rally at UCLA got into full swing, giant screens showed a video by of the Black Eyed Peas. A visually diverse lineup of stars — the actresses Scarlett Johansson and Amber Valletta; the rapper Common; the singer John Legend; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — recited and sang along with a film of Mr. Obama’s speech the night he lost the New Hampshire primary."

Andrew Rosenthal in the New York Times writes "before the closest thing America has ever had to a national primary, four extraordinary women - Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver - put on the best campaign rally I’ve seen in 20 years of covering presidential politics."

"The pitch-perfect event in U.C.L.A.’s Pauley Pavilion started like every other Barack Obama event — chants of “yes we can” and signs pitching the power of hope. Certainly, in that moment at the rally, the Obama campaign seemed to have a monopoly on what is hip, young and glamorous in California."

I was at the event and it was a remarkable vision of the not too distant future. The crowd was diverse and committed and passionate. We sat and discussed reasons why we believe Barack Obama needs to be our next President:

This is not about gender or skin color; this is about the right person for the job. Barack Obama is brilliant as Oprah Winfrey asserted at the rally and he is talented and importantly - Obama is a 21st century man. He has a global sensibility while being grounded as an American. His mother was a white woman from Kansas, his father was Kenyan, and his step father was Indonesian. Obama has experienced the challenges of being a son of an immigrant. Born in Hawaii, Obama went on to attend an Indonesian-speaking elementary school in Jakarta, then back to Hawaii to attend the prestigious Punahou School from 5th grade through High School. He attended Occidental College, Columbia University, and graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude. He became president of the Harvard Review and could have gone on to take any top paying job in the nation. Instead he chose to be a community organizer and civil rights attorney in Chicago.

This man cares deeply and knows deeply what he stands for. He has been in the trenches and, this, combined with his brilliance probably made him one of the best lecturers at the University of Chicago Law School, where he taught for 11 years before being elected to the senate. Obama has what it takes to be a leader.

obama rally at ucla

Also, as sad as it is, we need to admit that a powerful and sizable section of our country HATES Hillary Clinton, they LOATHE her. They will do anything to keep her out of office. The mother of a friend of mine was a Clinton appointee in his last administration. Their family is close and very supportive to the Clintons. Her daughter recently said to me on the phone that, from her vantage point, these ‘anyone-but-Hillary folks’ are plentiful and they “hate Hillary, more than the devil himself!”

We need to admit this and not pretend it will go away. It won’t. Hillary is seen by many as divisive. Our country needs to be reunited, not further divided. Obama is not just brilliant, he is able to unite. He is strong, smart, and he is inspiring. He will surround himself with the best, the most experienced, and the brightest to serve our nation.

I agree with the political commentators recently featured on Charlie Rose: “this isn’t about a campaign, this is about a movement”.

Yesterday at Pauley Pavilion the movement was in full swing. The crowd screamed with shocked delight when Maria Shriver, wife of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, walked onstage and into the Barack Obama campaign.

Caroline Kennedy at Obama Rally
During the rally at UCLA, Caroline Kennedy urged the crowd and voters across the country to “step out of your lives and into this moment in history.” This moment in history is our country embracing the candidacy of Barack Obama. This is our country walking forward together inspired by the words and sacrifices of Rosa Parks, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yes, We Can!

Friday, February 01, 2008

MoveOn Endorses Obama

Poster designed by Shepard Fairey

Dear MoveOn member,
With hundreds of thousands of ballots cast across the country, for the first time in MoveOn's history, we've voted together to endorse a presidential candidate in the primary. That candidate is Barack Obama.

Something big is clearly happening. A few weeks ago, MoveOn members we surveyed were split. But with John Edwards bowing out, progressives are coming together. Obama won over 70% of the vote yesterday, and he's moving up in polls nationwide.
As comments poured in from MoveOn members across the country, the sense of hope was inspiring. Here's how Christine Y. in New Jersey put it:

"I've never felt so strongly about any one candidate in my entire life. He's truly an inspiration to all of us—especially the younger generation. I will stand by him 100% for as long as he's willing to stand up and fight for this country!"

What does MoveOn's endorsement mean? People-power. Together, we are 3.2 million Americans who care about our country and want change. Half of us live in states with primaries or caucuses this coming "Super Tuesday."

We know how to roll up our sleeves and win elections, and if we all pitch in together between now and Tuesday, we can help Sen. Obama win the biggest primary day in American history. Think about it: volunteering during the next four days could mean four years of a progressive president. Can you sign up right now to volunteer for Obama's campaign? Click here:
MoveOn Endorses Obama