Ceremonies and Celebrations: Textile Treasures from the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection
September 14, 2018 through January 6, 2019
Celebrating the grand reopening of the USC Pacific Asia Museum after a year of the seismic retrofit project, the museum will present Ceremonies and Celebrations: Textile Treasures from the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection, drawn from the museum’s extraordinary collection of over 2,700 costumes and textiles from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.
Textiles are tactile, colorful objects that play an integral role in the lives of people across Asia. They are made with care and display a variety of techniques, colors, and materials that reveal a great deal about the cultures from which they originate. Often times, the processes in which they were made and the motifs embellished into their surfaces directly relate to belief and power in Asian communities. The finest textiles are reserved for ceremonies and celebrations marking special occasions, and specific style, color, or motifs function as visual cues to the nature of such ceremonies, as well as the social status of a person or people involved.
With select examples across Asia, Ceremonies and Celebrations will explore interesting ideas that can connect these vast regions together. The first section focuses on the connection between gender and textile production and the way that textiles are used to identify gender roles in society. The second idea that is explored in the exhibition is the role of textiles as a signifier of one’s status. The third theme looks at textiles worn or used in marking life transitions, including birth, weddings, and death. The final section illustrates the unique relationship between textiles and religions across Asia. Textiles help to identify religious practitioners and add beauty to religious spaces and rituals. By looking at textiles from these perspectives, rather than by their geographical associations, visitors will be able to see the creativity and the diversity of Asian textiles, while connecting meanings behind textiles from vastly different localities, and learn about why these textiles were made with such special cares and used in specific purposes.
Some of the highlights of the exhibition will be the imperial dragon robes worn by China’s emperors and imperial family during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). These robes feature nine powerful dragons, the symbol of the Emperor, embroidered or woven across the front and back of the silk robes. The yellow robes were the rarest of all, since the color yellow, symbolizing the sun, was worn exclusively by the Emperor. One such yellow robe, worn by the Guangxu Emperor (1875-1908) as a boy, will be on display.
Also included in the exhibition are magnificent whal-ot (wedding robes) from Korea, a promised gift to the museum, and Japanese kimono and kesa (Buddhist priest robes), some dating to the Edo period (1603-1868). From Southeast Asia will be Indonesian ikat-dyed cloth and batik woven textiles, and pineapple-fiber, or Piña cloth from the Philippines. From South Asia and the Himalayan region, will be colorful silk saris and elegant silk robes made for the Moghul court of India in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as richly decorated costumes from the kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.
Some of the best examples in the USC PAM’s textile collection are rarely exhibited because of their fragile nature and the negative effect of light on the natural dyes used, and Ceremonies and Celebrations will provide visitors with an exceptional glimpse at those rarely seen textile collection. The exhibition will accompany diverse programs, including lectures and demonstrations by Asian textile experts to highlight some of the featured textiles and techniques used and their history and free Family Festival.
Tsuruya Kōkei: Modern Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited (working title)
February 1, 2019 to July 14, 2019
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of this contemporary artist’s first solo show—held at PAM in spring 1989—it displays 77 prints by this artist widely celebrated as one of Japan’s leading contemporary print artists. The British Museum lauded Kōkei for producing Japan’s “most notable Kabuki prints” in the post-war era.
Known for his bold, even disturbing, portraits of Japan’s leading actors in a dynamic theatrical form, Kōkei responds to the idiosyncratic late-18th century kabuki prints by the great Sharaku. A master in his own right, Kōkei captures the intense color, movement and emotion of kabuki. Yet Kōkei diverges from tradition by designing, carving and printing his own work. Because he uses extremely delicate paper, his works juxtapose emotionally dynamic images with fragile materials to create objects of extraordinary power.
The exhibition presents all of Kōkei’s actor prints from 1984-1993. Because the artist limited his editions, such a complete collection is unprecedented. To explore the broader contours of Kabuki actor prints, Kōkei’s work contextualized by actor prints by Sharaku as well as two-dozen by contemporary Japanese and western artists. This comparative material is loaned from a leading private collection of modern Kabuki portraits.
The exhibition utilizes the complex issues of identity in Kabuki—where actors take on multiple roles and males take on female roles—to explore broader questions of self definition and its representation. It includes several Kōkei’s emotionally torqued self-portraits produced after he gave up actor prints in 2000. It concludes by examining how kabuki actor imagery has inspired pop images over the last 20 years, demonstrating the productive link between Japan’s historic ukiyo (floating world) and our own culture.