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Charles Bernstein

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The Artist and the Book in Japan

October 20, 2006 through February 4, 2007
Humanities and Social Sciences Library, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street
New York

Another great show from the New York Public  Library at 42nd Street. This one is a tribute to the legacy of Robert Rainwater, the recently retired curator of the Spencer Collection. Curated by Roger S. Keys.
The show chronicles the Japanese "picture book" from 764 to present.
Note: the show is in two separate exhibition spaces on the main floor.

The Sutra of the Ten Kings of Hell.
(published 1594)

Gifts of the ebb tide = The shell book.
(published 1789)

One of the highlights of this show is
Aboard the Ship of Inspiration, (published 1767),
a perhaps forty foot scroll, based on a trip taken by artist Itô Jakuchû (1716-1800) and poet Daiten Kenju on the Yado River to Kyoto. As the trip progressed, Jakuchû and Kenju each made quick improvisatory sketches. Later the poems and drawings were assembled into the scroll. The experience of reading/viewing this scroll of is of page- and mind-expanding horizontality, as one walks along the banks of the work as it unfolds. A translation of the text is provided at each point it appears in the scroll. .

Title calligraphy

Translation of poem:
"Mountains colored high and low, pale mist far off; people’s dwellings here and there, kitchen smoke nearby"

Another favorite of mine, not pictured, is by Senshôte Fukon, eight early 19th century pattern poems shaped in brocade patterns made of out of the syllables of the eight interwoven poems.

The Spencer Collection has made available extensive digital images from the show:
"More than 1,000 images encompassing 1,200 years of Japanese book art, including Buddhist sutras, painted manuscripts, portraits, landscapes, calligraphic verse, and photographic books, with related drawings and woodblock prints."

from 36 Great haikai poets
(published 1799)

link    |  12-11-06

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