The New York Times, March 7, 2018
Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery Princeton University Art Museum, July 14, 2012 – September 23, 2012
The artist in dialogue with the world, from ancient to modern, across media and cultures
PRINCETON, N.J.—The Princeton University Art Museum will present Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery, which aptly mixes work of wide-ranging media, historical period and place of origin to bring to life cross-cultural confrontation and discovery as expressed through art—as well as the dialogue that any artwork represents between its maker and the world. The exhibition will be on view from July 14 through September 23, 2012. It represents a unique opportunity to view more than 60 works from the Museum’s renowned encyclopedic collection and from private collections, gathered together in original and provocative combinations.
Encounters pursues the ideas of cross-cultural discovery—and its attendant dislocations—as a common human experience and of the visual arts as a crystallization and visualization of that experience. The exhibition draws from the arts of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, spanning time from ancient to contemporary, and includes media from painting and sculpture to calligraphy, prints, drawings, ceramics, glass, metalware and photography. The work of American artists, including Winslow Homer and David Smith, is shown alongside that by Greek, Ethiopian, Japanese and Chinese artists.
The exhibition is arranged to allow the visitor to probe various encounters, ranging from the exchange of forms, styles and ideas in art itself to interactions between peoples and the ways in which they picture themselves and others. Another theme, the hunger to encounter the unknown, is represented by a group of works that attempt to visualize the ultimate unknowns—such as the spiritual realm, space or scientific discoveries that lie just outside the bounds of established fact or observable reality. Taken together, the works in the exhibition provide a poignant document of human curiosity and the complexities of connection, observation and representation of the other and the outside world.
“The inspiration for Encounters came after working on the 2005 Outside In: Chinese x American x Contemporary Art exhibition, which dealt with cross-cultural interaction and global interpretation,” said Cary Liu, Curator of Asian Art. “It was a real opportunity to expand on these issues in a project that embraces art from all places and times. From there I began thinking about how that concept would apply to so many of the works in our collection. It’s a curator’s joy and challenge to take things that aren’t obviously related and merge them into a meaningful display. I hope it speaks to and challenges everyone who experiences it.”
Works of art separated by time and space are variously arranged—by function, style, shape, material or theme—to provoke questions and ideas about encounters between various cultures and the very discourse of such meetings. For example, Winslow Homer’s The Trysting Place (1875), a watercolor and gouache over traces of pastel and graphite on cream wove paper is displayed alongside Nobility Taking in the Evening Cool (1887), a Japanese triptych woodblock print. Through another perspective, stylistic trends toward the abstract or calligraphic, such as The Arduous Road to Shu and Song of the Immortal by Li Bo, a late 15th–early 16th-century Ming dynasty handscroll, have sometimes been deemed primitivist, modernist or expressionist, or as seen in the confrontation and translation of African and ancient American works by the Surrealists in the early 20th century. Other works are grouped to illustrate the energetic exchange of forms, techniques and ideas among cultures across place and time, as in the transmission of basic cultural objects or forms, such as the bottle and the teapot, or the glazing and porcelain techniques borrowed from and modified among many cultures, particularly in Asia.
Often what is accepted and familiar in the art of any people may remain hidden in the currents of tradition until the curious and fresh eye of the “other” renders it conspicuous through translation. The exhibition abounds with such discoveries. The gaze of one culture upon another—whether admiring, hostile, bemused or patronizing, viewed through the lens of trade, travel, exploration, colonization or conquest—as experienced in Yinka Shonibare’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (2008) or Six Pack of Kekou-Kele (2002), Zhang Hongtu’s whimsical porcelain homage to Coca-Cola, results in insight, entangled interaction and mutual impact that are uniquely captured in a work of art.
Encounters is accompanied by an extended brochure, available free at the Museum, as well as a summer film series, featuring three movies that consider the themes of cultural and personal encounters. Visit http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/events_archive/calendar.xml for more information.
About the Princeton University Art Museum Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading art museums. Its collections feature approximately 72,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary and concentrating geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, Asia and the Americas, with particular strengths in Chinese painting and calligraphy, the art of the ancient Americas and pictorial photography. The Museum is committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions while serving as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.
The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from Princeton’s Nassau Street. Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free highlight tours of the collections are given every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. For information, please call (609) 258-3788 or visit the Museum’s Web site at http://artmuseum.princeton.edu.
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