December 24, 2010

New York Times reviews the Hakuin show at Japan Society

Check out The New York Times art review of “The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin” at Japan Society.

From Ken Johnson’s review, “Spiritual Seeker With a Taste For the Satirical”:

Hakuin had no formal training in art, and he was 60 before he began to focus on painting. He was no dabbler, though. Art for him was another way to convey his teachings, and by the time he died at 84, he had produced more than a thousand works on paper.

His calligraphy evolved formally from relatively traditional blocks of text to characters made with three- or four-inch brushes that have the immediacy of modernist abstraction. His mostly brush-drawn imagery depicts older masters, landscapes, scenes of daily life and mythological visions with a relaxed yet exacting line and wonderful sensitivity of touch.

There is a gently humorous mood throughout that is reflected in, for example, a picture of sumo wrestling mice observed by a fat monk hiding in a big cloth bag. Portraits caricature revered teachers with gnarly, fiercely expressive faces rendered in crisp linear detail. There is little feeling of technical effort in Hakuin’s art. Delightfully free of academic conventions and sentimental piety, its aesthetic freshness matches its vitality of soul.

Read the rest here.

See previous Tricycle Blog coverage here. 

For those of you who can’t make the show, we’ve teamed up with Japan Society to bring you some of Hakuin’s painting and calligraphy at the Tricycle Gallery. 

“The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin” will through Jan. 9 at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, Manhattan; (212) 832-1155,

Image: "Landscape with Blind Men," (1752) Ink on paper, 40.9 x 56.6 cm. Eisei Bunko Foundation, at the Tricycle Gallery


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