Fuller View and Hometown Boy
We attended an opening event at the Seattle Asian Art Museum Wednesday night for two current exhibitions: A Fuller View of China, Japan and Korea, and Hometown Boy. Having flown home Monday night from New York, we were still a bit on east coast time, so it took some willpower to defer dinner and get over to Volunteer Park, but we were glad we did.
The Fuller exhibition honors Richard Fuller, who founded the Seattle Art Museum.
Dr. Richard E. Fuller and his mother, Margaret MacTavish Fuller, traveled extensively collecting Japanese and Chinese art in the early 1900s. In 1931 they gave the City of Seattle $250,000 to construct and maintain the Seattle Art Museum. Dr. Fuller, who directed SAM for its first 40 years, donated much of his own collection and acquired important works by contemporary Northwest artists such as Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and Kenneth Callahan.
In 1931, Dr. Richard Fuller commissioned architect Carl F. Gould to design the art deco building that is now the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It opened in Seattle’s Volunteer Park in 1933.
Xiaojin Wu, Associate Curator for Japanese and Korean Art, gives this description of the exhibition:
Dr. Richard Fuller’s 40 years as the museum’s founding director are the bedrock of its history, and his passion for art resonates with collectors of his time and beyond. In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, this installation shows how Dr. Fuller, his family and friends, and several more recent Seattle collectors, built SAM’s celebrated Asian art collections. Featuring some of SAM’s best-loved works such as the Poem Scroll with Deer, the installation showcases the incredible quality and diversity that make SAM’s Asian art collection one of the finest in the country. The selected Chinese paintings and calligraphy also celebrate the launch of an innovative online scholarly catalogue, a multi-year project sponsored by the J. Paul Getty Foundation.
Hometown Boy features the work of Liu Xiaodong. Josh You, the former SAM curator of Chinese Art (who left for Hong Kong two months ago) explains:
Now one of China’s most renowned contemporary artists, Liu Xiaodong grew up in a small industrial town in China before moving to Beijing at age 17 to study art. Three decades passed before he decided to head home to paint this celebrated series Hometown Boy. An internationally acclaimed artist who has lived through Beijing’s phenomenal growth in the past few decades, the 50-year-old Liu is baffled by the familiar: childhood friends who continue to struggle for a living, his parents’ unchanged home, and undeveloped paddy fields. The hometown boy has become an outsider, who masterfully captures the details of daily life in a typical Chinese town neglected by the media but teeming with life.
We arrived at the opening just as people were being ushered out of the wine reception to the basement auditorium for the program. It began as usual with welcoming remarks from the board president and then from Kim Rorschach, the museum director. We learned that Kim knew Liu Xiaodong’s work well, having featured it in a show at her previous home, Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art. And Liu Xiaodong was with us in person, as was former curator Josh Yiu.
Josh took the stage next to talk about Liu, then brought Liu up for an interview and an audience question and answer session. This worked better in principle than practice. Josh began with a question that lasted at least a minute. We all shifted our attention to Liu for his reply, only to realize that Josh was now repeating the question in Chinese. Liu answered, Josh replied (in Chinese), and their conversation went on a while before Josh translated some of it for us. The Q&A portion worked a little better, and Liu even answered a question or two without translation, though only briefly before switching to Chinese.
Next Xiaojin Wu came up to give us some background on the Fullers and the Fuller exhibition. The program closed with an amusing video clip of the late Bagley Wright giving remembrances a few decades back of Fuller, his taste in collecting, and his criticism of Wright’s own collecting choices.
It was now past 7:30 and we were hungry. There’s always a choice after the program: eat or art. We voted eat. And there’s usually a modest buffet, enough to take away our hunger. As we came up the stairs, we saw people strolling around with small Chinese food takeout cartons in hand, but couldn’t find a buffet table laid out with cartons or other food. We soon realized that the food was being passed by servers. And when another server appeared some five minutes later with a tray of cartons, a polite mob surrounded her. Gail squeezed in for the last box. Fried rice, which we split. No point standing there waiting for more. We headed into the Fuller exhibition.
This would be a good place to show you pictures of some of the objects, but I’m not finding much at the website. Nothing from the exhibition itself. There’s this, from the permanent collection highlights:
A little small. I know. This is one of the museum’s most well known works, a pair of six panel Japanese screens in ink and gold on paper from the 17th century. And you can see it represented in the photo at the top.
We didn’t spend much time in the exhibition, given that it was very late for us and we were going to have to stop on the way home for more food. We spent more time seeing Hometown Boy, which occupies a single room. Here’s the one picture from the exhibition website, Liu Xiaodong’s self portrait from 2010.
I can’t show you more. If you’re around, you should see the paintings for yourself. Or, if you’re in New York, see his latest paintings at the Mary Boone Gallery, which is showing In Between Israel and Palestine.
We headed out with plans to return for a closer look when we were less tired. And with more immediate plans to eat fried rice. I called Teriyaki Bowl for a takeout order and we picked it up on the way home. Not as good as what SAAM was offering (catered by their in-house restaurant, Taste). But it hit the spot.