Yesterday, I dropped into the Asian Art Museum in SF, and there are two exhibits that just opened.
History of History by Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Renowned Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto presents a number of works exploring the connections between different eras of mostly, but not exclusively, Japanese history.
This is an interesting exhibit - the installation itself was designed by Sugimoto, in accordance to his belief that the installation is as much a part of the artwork as the artwork itself.
I'm impressed by the way different historical eras are tied together by various bits of artwork. Among them is a 17th century etching by Rembrandt that is mounted on a Japanese scroll. One of the figures in the Rembrandt bears a physical resemblance to one of the major figures in Japanese Buddhism. The etching is itself mounted on a scroll using Japanese textiles that are roughly contemporary to that Rembrandt. Serendipitously, as the artist later discovered, the paper used by Rembrandt was, in fact, exported to the Netherlands from Japan. I was impressed by the superficial clash of cultural styles, but as one explores deeper, there is, in fact, a common context that's represented by the whole work.
Another exhibit, also at the Asian, is
Stylized Sculpture: Contemporary Japanese Fashion from the Kyoto Costume Institute, a collaboration between Sugimoto and the Kyoto Costume Institute. This is, perhaps, yet another of the "controversial" fashion shows to be shown in a museum. (There have been criticisms and controversy over the injection of couture into the realm of the fine-arts museums in San Francisco. What the fuck ever. If people can't figure out the artistry of, say, Vivienne Westwood (excellent exhibit at the deYoung, btw), then they're trapped in a rather narrow artistic paradigm, and I'd rather they spend more time doing oral performances of Cage's 4'33".)
Anyways, this exhibit aims to show the couture of Japanese designers (including many from Comme des Garcon) from 1983 to present as sculpture. Sugimoto's photographs of these fashion pieces are framed to minimize the human form. Interestingly, there is one piece that aims to distort the human form. Here, the body is but a frame for the clothes (and to make this point, there is a chair frame, a piece of furniture, that is upholstered by the same jacket that the adjacent mannequin is wearing). It's quite fascinating, but the exhibit, by design, has no didactics - the intent is to encourage the museumgoer to look at the artwork, not the little plaques about the art.
Sadly, about a few weeks too late, I just discovered that the De Young had shown a retrospective of Sugimoto's work. If only I had known, if only I had known.