Translation Teaching Resources in the Galleries of theThe images contained in this slideshow are provided for educa6onal purposes. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
VISUALIZING TRANSLATION AT THE UMMAThis slideshow suggests artworks from the University of Michigan Museum of Artthat can be used to develop teaching curricula for the LSA Translation ThemeSemester. To view online records for these objects go to the digital portfolio athttp://tinyurl.com/translationslideshow.For more information on integrating the UMMA’s resources into your teaching orresearch contact the Mellon Academic Coordinator, David Choberka(firstname.lastname@example.org).UMMA’s collection is open for gallery visits and for special viewing in theErnestine and Herbert Ruben Study Center for Works on Paper and the ObjectStudy Classroom.To arrange guided or self-guided gallery visits for your classes contact Pam Reisterat email@example.com or call 734-764-0395. Please allow 2-3 weeks to planyour class’s visit.To arrange research or class visits to the Ruben Center for Works on Paper or theObject Study Classroom contact Anne Drozd through the reservation links athttp://www.umma.umich.edu/education/research.html or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow 15 business days to process objectviewing requests.----------Teaching and Learning Programs at UMMA are supported by a generous grant from theAndrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Transla6on themes: Ques6ons about transla6on: event => history => myth 1) What is transla6on? How does tradi6on => new prac6ce transla6on func6on? object of use => art (assemblage, found art) 2) What can be translated? What object of use => art (design) might be diﬃcult or impossible to ritual object => museum object translate? What cannot be translated? Why? language => language 3) Is a transla6on the representa6on gender role => gender role of something in another form, or marker of social class/race => social class/race something new? medium => medium 4) What is gained in transla6on? venue => venue 5) What is lost in transla6on? material => material 6) What can we learn from the experience <=> representa6on transla6on about the translator? concept <=> visual representa6on art <=> consumer culture iden6ty <=> visual representa6on Roni Horn (United States, born 1955) Key and Cue No. 1182 culture <=> culture (hybridity) 1994 Aluminum and plas<c animal form <=> human form Gi? of an anonymous donor, 2009/1.470
Benjamin West (United States, 1738–1820) The Death of General Wolfe 1776 Oil on canvas Gi? of William L. Clements, acquired 1928, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan (P-‐2750) Transla6on themes: event => history => myth tradi6on => new prac6ce medium => medium art <=> consumer culture iden6ty <=> visual representa6on Benjamin West and the Art of Empire (show opens September 22, 2012) Perhaps the most celebrated pain6ng in eighteenth-‐century England, Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe depicts one of Great Britain’s most famous military victories (Cat. 1). Completed in 1770, West’s canvas appeared at the height of the public’s excitement for anything associated with Major-‐General James Wolfe, whose stunning triumph at the 1759 Ba_le of Québec gave Britain control of New France (present day northeast Canada). Although Wolfe died in the brief but decisive ba_le, the taking of Québec became the pivotal engagement of the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the North American campaign of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), and signaled Britain’s ascendency in the New World; Wolfe instantly rose in its pantheon of heroes. The Wolfemania that followed in the 1760s and 1770s coincided with a period of cultural transi6on in which newspapers and the expanding availability of consumer goods meant that Wolfe’s exploits at Québec—par6cularly his death—could be commodiﬁed and disseminated in a variety of media, from decora6ve objects to prints. It was in this cultural, ar6s6c, and poli6cal milieu that West’s pain6ng emerged as the consummate portrayal of the na6on’s most iconic hero, one that helped to forge a dis6nc6ve Bri6sh imperial iden6ty that galvanized society in the decades before the American Revolu6on.
Ouk Chim Vichet (b. Phnom Penh, Transla6on themes: Oct 13, 1981) tradi6on => new prac6ce Apsara Warrior metal, decommissioned weapons object of use => art ca. 2004 (assemblage, found art) Museum purchase made possible by gender role => gender role Guy and Nora Barron, 2007/2.79 concept <=> representa6on Vichet’s work responds to the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, 1975-‐79, under the rule of Pol Pot. Pot and the Khmer Rouge Communist party renamed Cambodia Democra6c Kampuchea. This four-‐year period saw the death of approximately 2 million Cambodians through poli6cal execu6ons, starva6on, and forced labor. Due to the large numbers, the deaths during the rule of the Khmer Rouge are onen considered a genocide, and commonly known as the Cambodian Holocaust or Cambodian Genocide. Apsaras—from Indian and Southeast Asian culture—are female spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are beau6ful, supernatural women, youthful, elegant, and proﬁcient in the art of dancing. Khmer classical dance, the indigenous ballet-‐like performance art of Cambodia, is frequently called Apsara dance. Apsara dance, dis6nguished by stylized hand gestures and sinuous body movements, dates back to the ﬁrst century when it was performed for royalty to honor gods and dynas6c ancestors. Khmer classical dance of today is believed to be connected by an unbroken tradi6on to the dance prac6ced in the courts of the monarchs of Angkor, which in turn drew its inspira6on from the mythological court of the gods and from its celes6al dancers, the Apsaras. The Khmer language has a complex system of usages to deﬁne speakers rank and social status. Under the Khmer Rouge, these usages were abolished. People were required, on pain of death, to avoid tradi6onal signs of deference such as bowing or folding the hands in saluta6on. In consequence, Apsara dancers, whose very movements embodied signs of religion and royalty, became one of the ﬁrst groups, along with many tradi6onal ar6sts, to be targeted for extermina6on under the Khmer Rouge. Rooted in and born out of Cambodia’s recent history, UMMA’s Apsara Warrior is emblema6c of the rebirth of the Apsara dance tradi6on following the Khmer rouge era and the reclama6on of a broad range of cultural tradi6ons that had been brutally suppressed during the bloody years of Khmer Rouge control.
Mbangu Mask Central Pende Peoples Transla6on themes: Democra6c Republic of the concept <=> visual representa6on Congo ritual object => museum object circa 1930 tradi6on => new prac6ce Wood, pigments, vegetable ﬁber, raﬃa Gin of Candis and Helmut Stern, 2005/1.200 The twisted face and drama6c opposi6on of black and white iden6fy this mask as an Mbangu mask, which represents inﬁrmity and sickness—condi6ons that are onen a_ributed to witchcran. According to a common Pende explana6on, Mbangu’s half-‐white, half-‐black face represents the scars of someone who fell into the ﬁre due to sorcery, while the asymmetry of the face and the marks on the black side are an indica6on of various other medical condi6ons. When the mask appears in performance, the dancer limps on a cane to convey the physical weakness of Mbangu, and he wears a humpback pierced with an arrow in reference to sorcerers who shoot their vic6ms with invisible arrows. Mbangu masks have a long history among Central Pende peoples. While examples from the ﬁrst decade of the twen6eth century do not have pierced eyes and were worn on the forehead, aner that the Mbangu genre became a facemask, with pierced eyes and distor6on of the facial features. Throughout the twen6eth century, from the era of Belgian colonial rule (1885–1960) into the period aner independence, Pende performers also invented new forms and genres of masks, whose popularity has waxed and waned over 6me. Today, the importance of masquerade remains strong, although the Pende have largely removed masquerading from its original ritual context and instead stress the power of masks to “beau6fy” the village and bring happiness to its inhabitants.
Dan Kvitka United States, born 1958 Stones from the River 2000 Afzelia burl from Burma and Nigerian black ebony Gin of Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen, 2002/2.153A-‐W Transla6on themes: concept <=> representa6on object of use => art (design) medium => medium Dan Kvitka is a wood ar6st who turns hollowed vessels from rare exo6c specimens. Though tradi6onally vessels are func6onal, here they become sculpture—beau6ful, polished, shiny smooth “stones,” the surface of which almost denies their substance. In Stones from the River, a collec6on of turned wood vessels is arranged along a horizontal support in a sculptural interpreta6on of the Judaic prac6ce ofTashlich, which means “cas6ng away.” The word is derived from a Biblical verse, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” recited on the anernoon of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). The custom begins with a prayer, and then par6cipants toss crumbs of bread or stones into a body of, preferably, moving water as a symbol of ridding themselves of the previous year’s sins. Dan Kvitka explains that “the orange ‘afzelia burl’ are the stones in the river…The ‘black ebony’ stones are the Tashlich stones, the stones containing both dark and light; they are us.”
Hunping funerary jar Proto-‐Yue ware, Zhejiang province Transla6on themes: Six Dynas6es, Western Jin dynasty concept <=> representa6on (165-‐316), 3rd century tradi6on => new prac6ce Stoneware with celadon glaze object of use => art (design) Museum purchase made possible by a gin from William and Martha Steen medium => medium 2000/1.39 This charming pot, with its engaging depic6on of musicians and ﬂocks of birds gathered by a many-‐roofed structure, bears silent witness to a tragic period in Chinese history. In the early fourth century, invasions by nomadic raiders from the steppes to the west forced tens of thousands of Chinese to ﬂee southward. Aside from the terrible toll of lives lost, the surviving exiles could not provide proper tombs for deceased family members. Instead, they sought to appease the souls of the departed by providing a res6ng place in ceramic containers such as this one, known as a hunping, or “jar for the soul.” The structure on the lid presents a square building within a circular enclosure, reminiscent of an ancient Chinese formula using a jade bi and cong to symbolize the joining of heaven and earth, is thus a ﬁyng home for wandering souls. It is also possible that the hunping form may have been inspired by Buddhist reliquaries or containers for the ashes of the deceased; the gate (the two roofed pillars at the base of the tower) would then symbolize the boundary to Buddhist paradise. The two overlapping meanings were common during this period in Chinese history. The jar is made of grey stoneware with a coat of green glaze typical of Yue wares. The glaze is an early form of celadon that is thin, lustrous, and evenly vitreous. It is the precursor to the later renowned translucent celadon glazes of the Song dynasty (960-‐1279).
Young-‐Hae Chang Heavy Industries Special Exhibi6on at the UMMA through December 30, 2012 Transla6on themes: culture <=> culture (hybridity) medium => medium language => language This exhibi6on will feature an original, UMMA-‐commissioned work by the Seoul-‐based duo of Young-‐hae Chang and Marc Voge—YOUNG-‐HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES (YHCHI). Blurring the boundaries between media, technologies, and cultural histories, YHCHI has gained interna6onal acclaim for their “net art” produc6ons—edgy digital poetry presenta6ons that ﬂash to the beat of compelling musical scores. Their sophis6cated and seduc6ve narra6ves feature a plain typeface and mesmerizing pacing. UMMA has commissioned an installa6on work drawing on UM’s unique intellectual assets and mul6cultural resources. In addi6on to the gallery presenta6on, the commission will be added to their website, yhchang.com. Crossing borders of literature and visual art, popular and high culture, high and low technology, YHCHI’s work oﬀers an exci6ng opportunity to encourage conversa6on among media-‐savvy college students and humani6es and social science intellectuals alike. (The piece depicted above is not part of the UMMA commission.)
Copper plate with Hanuman Transla6on themes: India, Rajasthan ritual object => museum object 18th –19th century medium => medium Copper concept <=> representa6on Gin of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel 1978/2.89 This copper plate presents a proﬁle portrait of the monkey–general Hanuman. His contours have been etched into the plate and ﬁlled en6rely with ornamenta6on in the form of Hindi le_ers. The resul6ng object is not merely an image, but a yantra—a func6onal tool or instrument believed to have talismanic proper6es. In India, these mys6cal diagrams are typically composed of geometric and alphabe6cal ﬁgures etched on small plates of gold, silver, or copper. These devices serve a twofold func6on: to invoke a par6cular god, and to help the devotee focus spiritual and mental energies upon that deity. They are frequently devoted to the achievement of health, good fortune, or childbearing, and are some6mes installed near or under the deity in the temple.
Joseph Wright of Derby England, 1734–1797 The Dead Soldier 1789 Oil on canvas Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund and anonymous individual benefactors 2006/1.156 Transla6on themes: tradi6on => new prac6ce concept => representa6on social class => social class social class => representa6on Joseph Wright of Derby, a member of the industrial and crea6ve avant garde in the north of England, ﬁrst exhibited this pain6ng at London’s Royal Academy in 1789 to great acclaim. The canvas depicts a woman cradling her child with a drama6cally foreshortened cavalryman crumpled at her side. Newly widowed and des6tute, the mourning woman joins the hands of the child with her own and that of her dead husband, linking their sad fates as the sun sets over the forest. That the child has fallen away from suckling at his mother’s breast suggests the poverty that awaits them both in an age when respectable women had few economic opportuni6es. What was most radical about the pain6ng in its day is that the viewer is asked to empathize deeply with an anonymous ﬁgure: we know nothing of the dead soldier’s iden6ty other than what his uniform tells us and the hint from the date that he may have fallen in the American Revolu6on. It is the infant who gives us entry into the pain6ng, looking out calmly, even sternly to meet our gaze. The emo6onal intensity of the pain6ng together with Wright’s astonishing bravura brushwork place this long-‐lost masterpiece at a cri6cal moment of transi6on in the birth of the modern age, when the ra6onalism of the Enlightenment began to give way to the emo6on of the Roman6c movement.
Joan Mitchell American, 1926–1992 Transla6on themes: White Territory experience <=> representa6on 1970–71 oil on canvas tradi6on => new prac6ce Purchase assisted by The Friends of the Museum and a grant from the Na6onal Endowment for the Arts 1974/2.21 Mitchell len New York for France in 1955, living ﬁrst in Paris and ﬁnally se_ling in the late 1960s in Vétheuil, a 6ny river village about an hour northwest of Paris. Like the winter landscapes Claude Monet (1840–1926) painted in the same vicinity, including The Breakup of the Ice, on view on the ﬁrst ﬂoor, White Territory is an impression of a landscape. Mitchell aimed to convey the landscape as aﬀected by what the ar6st called “internal weather,” meaning her personal associa6ons and poe6c sensibility. White Territory was ﬁrst shown in an upstate New York exhibi6on of her works called “My Five Years in the Country,” a reference to her self-‐imposed exile in this 6ny French village. Joan Mitchell was a leading ar6st of the second-‐ genera6on New York School, the close-‐knit community of abstract painters who were profoundly inﬂuenced by Abstract Expressionism and followed on the stylis6c and technical innova6ons of this ﬁrst genera6on, especially the work of Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline.
Felix Gonzalez-‐Torres Transla6on themes: United States, 1957–1996 object of use => art UnJtled (March 5th) #2 1991 (found art, assemblage) 40-‐wa_ light bulbs, extension cords, venue => venue porcelain light sockets concept <=> representa6on Museum Purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund, 1999/2.17 experience <=> representa6on When people ask me, "Who is your public?" I say honestly, without skipping a beat, "Ross." The public was Ross. Felix Gonzalez-‐Torres, January 1995 Light bulbs, ﬁxtures, and extension cords are humble, everyday things, but in the art of Felix Gonzalez-‐Torres, they are imbued with an unexpected emo6onal charge. The date March 5th, referenced in the 6tle, was the birthday of the ar6st’s lover, Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS in 1994. Created shortly aner Ross’s diagnosis, this is among the ﬁrst in a series of pieces Gonzalez-‐Torres made during that period using strings of bare light bulbs. Characteris6cally for the ar6st, the work is open to a range of interpreta6ons. Hanging against the wall, the installa6on might look naked and vulnerable, or poignant and warm. The implicit roman6cism of the work’s metaphor of two luminous, connected bodies—evoking those of Gonzalez-‐Torres and Laycock—is tempered by the knowledge that at any second one of the bulbs could burn out, with the other len to shine on alone.
Ewer with Silver FiRngs Ming dynasty, Yongle mark and period (1403–25) Transla6on themes: Porcelain with underglaze cobalt object of use => art (design) decora6on, silver spout and lid Gin of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Pope for culture <=> culture (hybridity) The James Marshall Plumer Memorial Collec6on, 1968/1.50 Since the 6me of Marco Polo, the center of Chinese porcelain produc6on has been Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, an area blessed with large deposits of the hard kaolin clay that is essen6al for porcelain. The kilns came into prominence during the Yuan period (1279-‐1368), when both the produc6on of pure white porcelain and porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decora6on were mastered. The succeeding Ming period (1368-‐1644) con6nued and expanded this tradi6on, as seem in this magniﬁcent ewer that once belonged in the collec6on of the dis6nguished ceramic scholar, John A. Pope, who catalogued the world-‐famous collec6on of Chinese blue-‐and-‐white porcelain at the Ardebil Shrine in Iran. The bright blue was derived from cobalt ore imported from Persia (Iran) and a ewer of this shape, which recalls Sassanian (Persian) metalwork prototypes, would have been made for an Islamic ruler and sent abroad with Admiral Zheng He (1371-‐1433), who sailed a Chinese ﬂeet to the Middle East from 1421 to 1423 on behalf of the Yongle emperor (r.1403-‐1424).The ﬂoral scrolls across the neck and body of the vessel, consis6ng of posies of diﬀerent blooms, also have origins in ancient West Asian art. The silver spout and lid are later European repairs.
Transla6on themes: material => material object of use => art (medium) Donald Sultan’s Smoke Rings seem to ﬂoat in deﬁance of the heavy materials with which they are produced: black tar and spackle, the substance used for patching holes in plaster and drywall. Sultan, who began using these kinds of materials when he was a construc6on worker, paints in the tradi6on of s6ll life, but rather than reproducing what the eye sees, he draws a_en6on to what it onen misses, revealing the abstract visual quali6es of commonplace things. His use of unorthodox media and manipula6on of scale provokes a sense of strangeness that slows recogni6on of his subjects, allowing for minute examina6on of their aesthe6c quali6es. In Smoke Rings Sultan arrests and monumentalizes a Donald Sultan transitory phenomenon: languid, spiraling United States, born 1951 curls of smoke. At once abstract and Smoke Rings June 14, 2001 2001 hyperreaslis6c, the pain6ngs are as much Spackle and tar on 6le over Masonite about the graphic gesture of white on black as Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry they are about the beauty to be found in the Fund and the Friends of the Museum of Art, 2006/1.159a-‐d ordinary world that surround us.
Power Figure (nkisi kozo) Vili peoples Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Transla6on themes: Gabon ritual object => museum object circa 1850 Wood, mirrors, resin, kaolin, tukula venue => venue powder, medicinal substances concept => representa6on 2005/1.182 This power ﬁgure probably represents a dog. In Vili and other communi6es in central Africa, dogs live in villages and hunt in forests. Thus, they were thought to move freely between the worlds of the living and the dead, their keen sense of smell and sight gran6ng them vision into otherworldly events. Used by ritual specialists to heal or to detect and redress misfortune, the mirror-‐topped medicine pack worked like a window into the ancestral realm. Spiritually charged materials like grave Power Figure (nkisi nduda) dirt, riverbed clay, shells, and herbs emboldened the forces Yombe peoples within it. The coiled tail, curled lower lips and snout, and ﬂexed Democra6c Republic of Congo knees give this 6ny ﬁgure vitality. Late 19th century Wood, cloth, ﬁber, animal -‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐-‐ hides, feathers, mirror, glass, Through the interven6on of a ritual expert (nganga), an nkisi, metal, resin, medicinal or power ﬁgure, becomes imbued with the capacity to heal, substances, pigment Gin of Candis and Helmut protect, or, conversely, to do harm to one’s enemies. This Stern, 2005/1.191 nkisi’s stare suggests that it stands guard, and the mirror on its torso is intended to deﬂect subversive forces. Its potency is increased by bundles of medicinal herbs contained beneath the feathered turban. Strips of curling hide radiate around the ﬁgure and extend its energy into the surrounding space. Most colonial oﬃcials and missionaries banned power ﬁgures from their precincts. The large number found in art collec6ons throughout the world speaks to the undeniable allure and charisma of these objects, as well as to the vigor with which they were removed by the authori6es.
Charles Ferdinand Wimar United States, 1828–1862 The AYack on an Emigrant Train 1856 Oil on canvas Bequest of Henry C. Lewis, 1895.80 Transla6on themes: event => history => myth iden6ty <=> representa6on concept <=> representa6on In this pain6ng a wagon train of American pioneers crossing the prairie is a_acked by a group of Na6ve Americans armed with tomahawks and bows and arrows; as the men in the ﬁrst wagon take up arms to defend themselves, their comrades rush forward to join the ﬁght. The A_ack on an Emigrant Train was painted during the height of westward expansion in the United States (1840s–1860s) and is very much a product of its 6me. Its drama6c staging of two cultures clashing reinforced the doctrine of Manifest Des6ny—the belief that European Americans had a right and even a Chris6an duty to expand throughout the North American con6nent. According to this theory, Indians were literally an obstruc6on in the path of American progress. Here they are portrayed as ferocious aggressors arres6ng the forward movement of the peaceful immigrants. The white man’s steady aim of his gun—taken up to protect women and children who take shelter in the wagons—is contrasted with the chao6c mass of half-‐clothed warriors armed with simple weapons. Images such as this reinforced the prevailing no6on of the Na6ve American as primi6ve, even savage, and perpetuated the idea they were another element of the untamed landscape that needed to be subdued and civilized. Wimar’s pain6ng became enormously inﬂuen6al, inspiring and establishing a stereotype of a_acks on wagon trains that persisted well into the 20th century.
Mariano Salvador de Maella Spain, 1739–1819 Transla6on themes: The AnnunciaJon medium => medium About 1780 Oil on canvas tradi6on => new prac6ce Museum purchase (1967/1.37) Contrasted with contemporary scenes of everyday life from northern Europe, Maella’s pain6ng speaks to the con6nuing impact of the Catholic Church in southern Europe during the 6me of the Enlightenment, a period in which reason ul6mately came to hold sway over religious belief in much of Europe. Maella painted this scene of the Annuncia6on as a preparatory study either for an altarpiece or a much larger fresco pain6ng for a wall or ceiling in a palace or church. He rendered the small-‐scale study in shades of gray, a technique known as grisaille, which allowed him to examine the overall balance of light and shade in the ﬁnal pain6ng without the complica6ng factor of color. Maella follows established conven6on by represen6ng the archangel Gabriel descending on a cloud toward the Virgin Mary to proclaim that she would give birth to Jesus, while the dove of the Holy Spirit ﬂies down from overhead and God the Father looks on. Maella uses the subtle tonal modula6ons of grisaille to explore how the robust forms and grounded materiality of the Virgin and the surrounding furniture give way to the light-‐ﬁlled clouds and diﬀused shapes above; through experimen6ng with light, Maella seeks to bring the worldly and heavenly realms together in support of Catholic devo6onal prac6ce.
AnnunciaJon Antwerp, Belgium, circa 1520 Oil on panel Gin of Professor and Mrs. Charles H. Sawyer, 1992/1.135 Transla6on themes: medium => medium tradi6on => new prac6ce Painters and sculptors outnumbered bakers and butchers in mid-‐sixteenth-‐century Antwerp. This surprising sta6s6c reveals the importance of ar6s6c produc6on to the economy of a city that emerged as a mercan6le capital of Europe during the 1500s. Many of the ar6sts in Antwerp were employed in workshops, where they produced the vast majority of works for export and some for local consump6on. This panel depic6ng the Annuncia6on shares many stylis6c features with pain6ngs made in Antwerp from about 1520, including the composi6on of the scene and the embellishment of the architecture with fashionable Italian decora6ve elements. Although the ar6st of this work remains uniden6ﬁed, some of the most famous ar6sts of the period also trained or worked in the city: Joos van Cleve, for instance, whose pain6ng of St. John on Patmos hangs nearby, was one of Antwerp’s established masters.
Juan de Valdés Leal (1622–1690) The AnnunciaJon Seville, Spain, 1661 Oil on canvas Museum Purchase, 1962/1.99 Transla6on themes: medium => medium tradi6on => new prac6ce With an explosively brilliant light illumina6ng a darkened room, the Baroque master Juan de Valdés Leal captures the drama of Jesus’s concep6on. On the len, the Archangel Gabriel swoops down from heaven to announce to the Virgin Mary that she will give birth to Jesus, as recounted in the Gospel of Luke (1:26–38). Mary, interrupted at her reading, looks downward with humility and submission as the white dove of the Holy Spirit descends from a glory of light toward her womb. On the balustrade, the white lilies symbolize her purity, and the vase, which transmits light with no eﬀect on the glass itself, is a metaphor for how she became pregnant but remained unblemished by sin. God the Father, almost dissolved in his own radiance, presides over the scene from the cloudburst above. Valdés Leal augments the animated poses and the vivid color with energe6c brushwork, invigora6ng the scene with an exuberant theatricality.
The Han imagina6on was simultaneously down-‐to-‐ earth and preoccupied with immortality and other-‐ worldly spirits. While the inexpensive mortuary po_ery in the large wall case opposite tes6ﬁes to Han prac6cality, this carved limestone slab illustrates Han ﬂights of fancy. This magniﬁcent square-‐shaped frieze was originally part of a memorial hall or tomb. Its seven horizontal registers portray the ver6cal ascent of the soul from the watery netherworld on the lowest register to the “Happy Homeland” or heavenly abode of the Queen Mother of the West at the top. In the widest register, above the watery netherworld of six swimming ﬁsh, is a burial procession lead by an ox cart—an accurate depic6on of Han dynasty burial prac6ce for the elite. The central three registers portray groups of mourners, performing rituals to send the deceased properly into the anerlife. The Queen Mother herself, shown as a winged creature with a human face, dominates the top register. She is ﬂanked by two writhing dragons and other heavenly immortals, including a pair of rabbits who reside on the moon pounding rice cakes of immortality, and an auspicious Funerary slab with the Queen Mother of the nine-‐tailed fox, associated with the sun and magic. West Transla6on themes: Eastern Han dynasty (25–220), 2nd century medium => medium Carved limestone slab The Queen Mother of the West appears in Chinese concept <=> representa6on Museum purchase made possible by the texts as early as the tenth century BCE of the Zhou Friends of the Museum of Art and the dynasty (1027-‐256 BCE), but her cult became popular Margaret Watson Parker Fund, in honor of during the Eastern Han dynasty, when the desire for Senior Curator Marshall Wu on his immortality reached a feverish pitch. re6rement, 2000/2.1
Jenny Holzer United States, born 1950 Transla6on themes: SelecJons from Truisms medium => medium 1983 Electronic L.E.D. with red diodes tradi6on => new prac6ce Museum Purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins venue => venue Ferry Fund and anonymous individual benefactors, 2006/1.151 Jenny Holzer is an installa6on and conceptual ar6st whose primary medium is words. She onen uses language to draw a_en6on to and undermine habits of thought that go unno6ced. Her Truisms are a constantly evolving collec6on of several hundred phrases, ideas, and asides—made up or appropriated from diverse sources—that includes such provoca6ve one-‐liners as: “A li_le knowledge goes a long way;” “there is a ﬁne line between informa6on and propaganda;” “money creates taste;” and, “freedom is a luxury not a necessity.” The Truisms have appeared in many forms. Their ﬁrst incarna6on as a public art project was in 1977–79, when Holzer anonymously posted inexpensive, commercially printed broadsheets on buildings, walls, and telephone booths in and around Manha_an. Her pithy, ironic and acerbic aphorisms were meant to be provoca6ve and elicit public debate. In subsequent years they appeared on posters, billboards, and, as here, LED (light emi6ng diode) displays and have been exhibited in prominent public places like Time Square, as well as museums and galleries. Just as the content of the Trusims onen mimics adver6sing slogans, Holzer has borrowed from marke6ng prac6ce and emblazoned them on coﬀee mugs, t-‐shirts, pencils, baseball caps, and golf balls.
Display ﬁgure Ar6st Osei Bonsu (1900–1977) Transla6on themes: Akan (Asante) peoples medium => medium Ghana Wood tradi6on => new prac6ce Gin of Margart H. and Albert J. ritual object => art object Coudron, 2001/2.33 venue => venue This ﬁgure, seated on a royal stool—considered the soul of the Asante people—with an egg in his hand, depicts a popular proverb: “To be a ruler is like holding an egg in the hand; if it is pressed too hard it breaks, but if not held 6ghtly enough it may slip and smash on the ground.” This mo6f was onen used to decorate the tops of linguist staﬀs (emblems of authority used by the ruler’s spokesmen during public ceremonies), but this ﬁgure was commissioned from Osei Bonu—a prominent ar6st—by a local Asante or expatriate elite to display in a home. Osei Bonu’s naturalis6c style is seen in the egg-‐shaped head, the high, sloping forehead rising from pronounced eyebrows, the long ringed neck, and small, delicate hands and feet. He is known for his smooth, carefully ﬁnished surfaces; indeed he disdained rough ﬁnishes, which he compared to “fufu [pounded yams, a staple food] that has fallen into the gravel.”
Mark Tobey United States, 1890-‐1976 Transla6on themes: Broadway Melody medium => medium 1945 Tempera on board experience <=> representa6on Gin of Mr. and Mrs. Roger L. Stevens, 1949/1.152 The theme of the city played a key role in the development of Tobey’s hallmark “white wri6ng” style aner his return from an extended trip to China and Japan in 1934. New York, in par6cular, came to represent a “universal city” for the ar6st, although he chose to live at a remove from the vibrant art scene that was developing there in the immediate postwar period. Tobey con6nually revisited the subject of Broadway, a popular emblem of the spectacle of city lights and city life. His fascina6on was not, however, simply a ma_er of roman6c gloriﬁca6on. Of his ﬁrst Broadway pain6ng, he wrote that it “astonished me as much as anyone else. Such a feeling of Hell under a lacy design—delicate in spirit but madness.” This feeling is characteris6c of Broadway Melody as well. Its successive overlays of rapidly constructed images and wri6ng (the evoca6ve word “tomorrow” is clearly legible in the upper len corner of the pain6ng) both build up the pictured scene to give a sense of depth, and overwhelm the ﬁgures interspersed throughout. The dense repe66on from one end of the canvas to the other of similar elements without strong varia6on would become a deﬁning feature of the Abstract Expressionist style of pain6ng, which Tobey pioneered along with his New York counterparts.
Idangani Mask Transla6on themes: Sala Mapsu peoples ritual object => museum object Democra6c Republic of the Congo Early 20th century tradi6on => new prac6ce Woven ﬁber concept <=> representa6on Gin of Professor and Mrs. Horace M. social class <=> representa6on Miner, 1983/2.184 These formidable masks played a vital role in the Sala Mpasu’s warrior society, a powerful associa6on through which men increased their authority by securing the right to wear par6cular masks. The most pres6gious of these were the idangani masks, which represented a married couple and were constructed en6rely from ﬁber. The mask on view here is female, iden6ﬁed by the small ﬁber knobs that recall a popular woman’s hairstyle. The kasangu mask was made of wood and represented a warrior. Its open, rectangular mouth exposes pointed teeth—a Sala Mpasu mark of beauty. As new forms of authority and wealth were imposed Kasangu Mask Sala Mpasu peoples by the Belgian colonial state, the Sala Mpasu Democra6c Republic of the disbanded their warrior society and destroyed many Congo Early 20th century of the masks associated with it. However, the Wood, kaolin, ﬁber resilience of Sala Mpasu ar6sts remains evident in the Museum purchase assisted by new forms of masks they con6nue to create for the Friends of the Museum of Art, 1971/2.44 entertainment, boys’ ini6a6on ceremonies, and the external art market.
Aner the Tokugawa shogunate established peace in the early seventeenth century, no major ba_les were fought on Japanese soil. Yet swords and mar6al arts remained a vital part of the samurai life. Ruling samurai were required to wear swords, training in swordsmanship was highly encouraged, and swords became important markers of the hierarchical samurai class system. During the Edo period, the symbolic importance of swords was underscored through the use of elaborate and decorated scabbards, guards, sheaths, and a_achments. This scabbard, for example, is adorned with mul6colored lacquer, which would be quickly damaged in actual combat. Sword, ornament, and scabbard The warrior depicted here is Kojima Takanori, a Japan, Edo period (1615–1868) devoted supporter of the Emperor Godaigo 1858 (1288–1339), who led a rebellion against the Forged steel, lacquer, and gold Gin of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic R. Smith, powerful Hôjô clan. When the Emperor’s a_empt 1973/2.88 failed, Takanori sneaked into the inn where the ruler was in cap6vity and wrote a poem on a piece of cherry tree bark predic6ng that the Transla6on themes: Emperor would surely be liberated by his ardent object of use => art (design) vassal. This was provoca6ve subject ma_er in tradi6on => new prac6ce 1858, a 6me when the pro-‐Emperor forces and social class <=> representa6on the supporters of the shogunate were engaged in ﬁerce struggles for power.
Giulio Carpioni Italy, 1613–1679 The Death of Leander About 1655 Oil on canvas Museum purchase (1984/1.290) Transla6on themes: medium => medium With drama6c contrasts of light and dark and swirling brushwork, Giulio Caripioni depicted on this canvas the drowning of Leander, a young man who was the lover of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. Every night Leander would swim across the Hellespont, the strait connec6ng the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea, to the tower where Hero lived. During one of his nightly crossings Leander was caught in a winter storm, evoked in the pain6ng by the turbulent waters and malevolent sky. The wind ex6nguished the light that Hero always len at the top of the tower to guide her lover, and Leander without the light became lost and drowned. Four sea nymphs, accompanied by a merman and the sea god Poseidon in his chariot, have risen from the dark waves to mourn over Leander’s body, which they support in a white shroud. Their anguish over the dead lover foreshadows the impending sorrow and suicide of Hero, who waits anxiously on her tower in the distance.
Vishnu as Varaha Central India, Madhya Pradesh, Chandella workshop c. 10th century Sandstone Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collec6on Fund, 2002/1.167 Transla6on themes: medium => medium tradi6on => new prac6ce animal form <=> human form The body of Vishnu’s boar-‐headed incarna6on, Varaha, forges a diagonal bolt through this sculpture. His right foot is planted decisively at the corner of its projec6ng base; his len is ﬂexed for leverage on a lotus pedestal. Against these roo6ng forces his body surges upward, culmina6ng in an acutely raised snout. The magnitude of Varaha’s gesture and his rela6ve scale suggest a superhuman strength, and his feet are splayed apart in a posi6on that deﬁes human physiology. In Hindu image making, the remarkable form of a god’s body reveals his or her boundless capaci6es. In this case, Varaha’s dis6nct posture depicts a well-‐known Hindu episode in which Vishnu took the form of a great boar to rescue the world from a demon who had imprisoned the earth beneath the cosmic ocean.
A_ributed to Neri di Bicci (1418–1492) Cross with the Dead Christ (Christus paJens) and Living Christ (Christus triumphans) Italy, circa 1470/71 Tempera and gold on wood Gin of the Baroness Maud Ledyard von Ke_eler, 1942.6 Transla6on themes: medium => medium riutal object => museum object venue => venue The suﬀering and triumph of Christ are drama6cally juxtaposed on this rare and delicate cross. On one side of the cross, the dead Christ slumps forward, ﬂanked by the mourning Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist with God the Father looking on from above and the apostle Philip below. On the other side, by contrast, Christ stands upright, surrounded by the four Evangelists who witness his triumph over death and sin. This cross was carried alon on a staﬀ in religious processions, and the depic6on of Christ on either side of the cross would ensure that an image addressed spectators no ma_er where they stood. The juxtaposi6on of the living and dead Christ would have resonated powerfully with many of the church rituals for which the cross was used, notably funeral rites and the Eucharist, which re-‐enacted Christ’s sacriﬁce.
James McNeill Whistler United States, 1834–1903 Sea and Rain: VariaJons in Violet and Green 1865 Oil on canvas Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1955/1.89 Transla6on themes: experience => representa6on During the late summer and early fall of 1865, Whistler traveled to the Normandy region of France to the resort town of Trouville and painted there with fellow-‐ar6st Gustave Courbet. Although Courbet later claimed Whistler as a student, Whistler’s pain6ng style had already begun to depart from Courbet’s signature thick applica6on of paint. Sea and Rain is characteris6c of Whistler’s understated pale_e and thin veils of paint; this view of the sea, sky, and beach, inhabited by a solitary ﬁgure, provides no narra6ve content and scant speciﬁcs about the site or weather. Nevertheless, Sea and Rain is a highly nuanced pain6ng that accurately evokes, rather than describes, the cool, damp, early autumn day at the beach. The melancholy ﬁgure, partly obscured by the diaphanous blue area of a 6dal pool, becomes a precisely placed accent within the composi6on. This tonal and lyrical composi6on does not seem startling to viewers of the 21st century accustomed to abstract art, but such understated minimalism in Whistler’s pain6ngs stood at odds with the highly ﬁnished Academic pain6ng of the period.
Transla6on themes: medium => medium culture <=> culture (hybridity) In the fourth century BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara, the area from which this sculpture comes now part of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Links with Greece and later with Rome endured for centuries as Gandhara lay on the trade routes, known as the Silk Road, that connected East and West. This con6nual associa6on with the West greatly aﬀected Gandharan art as can be seen in the facial features, wavy hair, and draped toga-‐like clothing of this Buddha and the one to the right. Both these sculptures decorated the exteriors of religious buildings or shrines in monas6c complexes and were painted in their original context. Standing beside the Buddha is a ﬁgure making the gesture of worship. This is Indra, king of the Hindu gods. Brahma, another important early Hindu deity, is likely to have been on the other side of the Buddha. The Buddha ﬂanked by these Hindu dei6es —a typical subject in Gandharan art—was intended Buddha Shakyamuni a_ended by Indra Pakistan, ancient region of Gandhara to communicate the superiority of the Buddha in 2nd–4th century rela6on to the Hindu gods that were most Stucco relief with traces of polychromy prominent at that 6me. Indra’s contropposto (hip-‐Museum purchase for the James Marshall Plumer Memorial Collec6on, 1961/2.83 shot) stance is yet another visual associa6on with Western art.