Feb 17, 2014

Good Luck Olympic Moustache

Yesterday in Sochi, Czech snowboarder Eva Samkova won gold in the snowboardcross competition sporting a faux moustache in the colors of the Czech flag for luck. Guess it worked!

 Photo by Cameron Spencer

Feb 13, 2014

Buddah Hairwork

This 17th-century textile depicts Buddha in a state of nirvana. It incorporates embroidered human hair - black to represent the hair on Buddha laying on his side and gray to render the withered sal tree. The work measures 170.6 centimeters high and 84.2 centimeters wide.

The textile panel was created in 1678 by a Buddhist priest and artist named Kunen, who collected hair from devotees who felt that their donation would help them in making merit and reaching paradise in death. "The phenomenon of embroidering devotional works using human hair seems to be a peculiarly Japanese response to image making, probably beginning in the thirteenth century and usually associated with the Pure Land tradition."1.

I could not find any additional information about the artist Kunen, but the press release states that he created 72 textile works, some using the hair of at least 10,000 people! Only eight of his works survive. This piece was found in 2007 at the Joganji temple in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward. It has been on view since February 8 in the Kyoto district office of the Jodoshu, or “Pure Land” sect, located in Higashiyama Ward. Admission is free.

While not abundant, there certainly are many examples of Buddhist artwork which incorporate human hair. Most of these are in the Pure Land tradition. "Using the hair of devotees to represent sacred figures was a dramatic way to collapse the distinction between devotee and deity, to show the merging with the sacred for which devotees longed, in this life or after death."2.

LEFT: Mandala of the Two Worlds. Kamakura period, ca. 1300; silk floss and human hair embroidery on silk; hanging scroll. Taisanji, Kobe.
RIGHT: Raigo: Descent of the Amida Buddha. Muromachi period, 1400s; silk and human hair embroidery mounted as a hanging scroll. Cleveland Museum of Art.

The use of human hair in these Japanese Pure Land embroideries likely began around the 13th century and then became more commonplace in the Muromachi period (1333-1573). They generally fall into two categories - those of predominantly figurative images and those that emphasize the written word.3. Above left is an embroidered shoji Mandala of the Two Worlds, a devotional textile in which human hair was worked into all the black sacred syllables that signify deities. Above right is a scroll representing the welcoming descent (raigo), the most ubiquitous of Japanese Pure Land images, here showing the Amida triad "offering the lotus throne on which the believer will be transported to salvation."4.

"When devotees donated hair to be worked into these powerful images, another layer of meaning is added. Since hair often suggests wild, untamed, sexual energy, its use in embroideries can be seen as an attempt to control or transform that 'negative' power, to turn negative into positive, to make the imperfect into the perfect. Hair, signifying the human body, undergoes a purifying metamorphosis when used in these embroideries to depict the hair and garments, or the names, of sacred figures. The distinction between buddha and believer collapses and they become one."5.

1. Elizabeth Ten Grotenhuis, Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography, University of Hawaii Press, 1999, page 95.
2. Ibid.
3. Elizabeth Ten Grotenhuis, Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, in Handbook of Oriental Studies, BRILL, 2010, page 884.
4. Ibid, page 877.5. Ibid, page 891.

Feb 8, 2014

Bushes for Sale

Art F City is hosting an auction on Paddle8. You can bid on items online through Monday, February 17th at NOON or head over to Postmasters Gallery for the live auction with CK Swett at 7:45PM.  The best of the bunch are the bushes! Two ink jet prints of Marilyn Minter's hyper-real paintings:

Fur, 2013                                                               Carpet, 2013

Art F City supports emerging artists and critical writers by exposing them to a broader and underserved audience through informed, straightforward discussion.

Feb 6, 2014

Denise Grünstein: Figure Out

Swedish photographer Denise Grünstein's 2009 series "Figure Out" places solitary, faceless women masked by hair in surreal, Dali-blue-skied environments or dark, simple rooms reminiscent of those found in 17th-century Flemish still lifes. The woman are positioned centrally, yet appear passive. The effect is dreamlike - women at odds with their environments, placed awkwardly, displaced and misplaced. Many images depict hair found on dining tables draped in white linen, suggesting that the hair is edible, can be consumed. But the women are also being consumed by hair their hair. If hair can be understood as something that directly shapes our looks, perhaps these images imply the contradiction of both consuming and being consumed by appearance/appearing.

Denise Grünstein's work is on view in Different Distances: Fashion Photography Goes Art, an exhibition at Aperture Gallery from February 6–February 14, 2014.

  Head over Heels, 2009

 Figure Out, 2009

Female Gaze, 2009

Figurine, 2009

Headhunter, 2009

 Inside looking out, Outside looking in, 2009

 Tied, 2009

Video still from All Flesh is Grass. The title refers to the perishing, temporary nature of everything.