Category Archives: Events

Chinese New Year: Celebrating with Food and Art

 

Meet Baolin Zhang, who creates edible festival toys out of rice flour. He will travel to Washington, DC, from Beijing to demonstrate how to make these dough figurines at our third annual Chinese New Year Celebration on Sunday, February 5.

Although this craft does not require complicated skills or rare materials, it does take a lot of artistic practice. At his demonstration, Zhang will show how he kneads colored dough into different shapes. In the video, you can see how he uses small bamboo slits to depict people, animals, and deities from traditional folktales. Along with glutinous rice flour, he uses other edible materials to create his art, including wax and honey to prevent cracking or mildewing.

After watching Bai’s demonstration, you can watch another Beijing artist use liquid sugar to paint beautiful creatures from the Chinese zodiac. Don’t worry if all this edible art makes you hungry: Pinch Dumpling will sell steamed dumplings, which you can enjoy as a casual lunch with friends and family.

All activities are free and open to the public. For more information (and to invite your friends), check out the event listing on Facebook.

“The Salesman” Makes Headlines

"The Salesman" screens Sunday, February 5, at the National Gallery of Art as part of Reseeing Iran: The 21st Annual Iranian Film Festival.

“The Salesman” screens Sunday, February 5, at the National Gallery of Art as part of Reseeing Iran: The 21st Annual Iranian Film Festival.

Every once in a while, a film that we present unexpectedly hits the headlines. Such is the case with the centerpiece of this year’s Iranian Film Festival, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. It already opened the festival to a crowd of more than four hundred people, who filled the AFI Silver Theatre’s largest auditorium to capacity on a rainy Sunday afternoon last month. It returns this Sunday for an encore screening at our other festival partner, the National Gallery of Art.

Two days after the AFI screening, nominations were announced for the 89th Academy Awards—including The Salesman for best foreign language film. This in itself is no surprise. Farhadi’s film A Separation, was, in 2012, the first Iranian film to win the same award, launching Farhadi to international fame and inspiring huge celebrations in the streets of his native country. The story of a marriage whose fissures are exposed when an intruder breaks into the couple’s home, The Salesman is every bit as compelling as its predecessor.

Still from "The Salesman"

Still from “The Salesman”

In the days since, however, the happy news of The Salesman’s Oscar nomination has been overshadowed by the news surrounding the executive order on travel. The film’s star Taraneh Alidoosti announced that she would boycott the Oscar ceremony, declaring on Twitter, “I won’t attend the #AcademyAwards 2017 in protest.” Shortly thereafter, Farhadi, who had planned to use his trip to Los Angeles as an opportunity to speak out about the government-issued order, released this statement. It announced that he too would boycott the ceremony, even if an exception were made allowing him to travel.

Whether you come for the well-crafted drama of Farhadi’s film, the performances of Alidoosti and her equally talented costar Shahab Hosseini, or simply to support Iranian cinema in the nation’s capital, I hope to see you on Sunday.

Chinese New Year: Painted Clay Sculptures Celebrate Beijing Opera Characters

 

Meet Hongkui Lin, a craftsman of painted clay opera masks. On Sunday, February 5, watch him demonstrate his more than one-hundred-year-old craft at our third annual Chinese New Year Celebration. Lin is visiting from Beijing, and his demonstration will be a rare opportunity for Americans to experience this popular Chinese craft.

As this video shows, the process for making the clay masks is more complex than it might seem at first glance. Like a complicated recipe, one mask takes a minimum of sixteen steps, from carving models on paper to applying base paint and adding enamel.

Lin selects colors to reflect aspects of each character’s identity and personality. Red often represents loyalty, for instance, while black symbolizes integrity. Colors also may signify age. Pink is reserved for elders, and if your character is immortal, it most likely will bear silver or gold.

After watching Lin’s demonstration, you may be inspired to watch thirty-minute opera performances by students from the Beijing Opera Art’s College at 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Or, you may be tempted to make your own opera mask in the museum’s ImaginAsia classroom.

Seating will be first come, first served, and all activities are free and open to the public. For more information (and to invite your friends), check out the event listing on Facebook.

 

On Sunday, February 5, Beijing folk artist Lin Bai will visit the Freer|Sackler as part of our third annual Chinese New Year Celebration. From 12–5 pm, you can watch him demonstrate how to make traditional bristle dolls.

This handicraft originated in Beijing more than a century ago, at the end of Qing Dynasty. In the video, you can see how Bai uses traditional materials to connect to the origins of this art form. He constructs the doll’s head and base from plaster, and he uses straw to shape the character’s bodies. The figures are then dressed in colored paper or silk and lined with cotton padding.

Bai makes characters inspired by popular operatic plays, including Uproar in Heaven and Four Pairs of Mallets. Each character is secured onto a base with a circle of sticks (or bristles), thus giving the dolls their beloved namesake. Once a collection of dolls is finished, the troupe can be placed onto a copper plate. When hit by a mallet, the figures appear to dance due to the sticks’ flexibility.

After watching Bai’s demonstration, you may be inspired to see the dolls come to life in opera performances by students from the Beijing Opera Art’s College at 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Or, you may be tempted to make your own opera mask in the museum’s ImaginAsia classroom.

Seating will be first come, first served, and all activities are free and open to the public. For more information (and to invite your friends), check out the event listing on Facebook.

Goryeo Buddhist Painting: A Closer Look

Detail, Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (Jijang bosal); Korean, late 13th or early 14th century; hanging scroll, ink, color, and gold on silk; anonymous gift, S1992.11

Detail, Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (Jijang bosal); Korean, late 13th or early 14th century; hanging scroll, ink, color, and gold on silk; anonymous gift, S1992.11

Painted in rich reds, greens, and blues patterned with gold, exquisite Goryeo Buddhist paintings survive in very small numbers. Scholars have identified fewer than 160 examples worldwide. Still shrouded in mystery, this genre of Korean religious icon seems to date almost exclusively to around the fourteenth century.

The Goryeo dynasty (pronounced Ko-ree-o, the root of Korea’s modern moniker) lasted from 918 to 1392 and is considered a golden age of artistic and cultural development. The Buddhist images created at the time reflect the strength of the Pure Land tradition, which promises believers rebirth in paradise. The works feature specific buddhas and bodhisattvas who help followers achieve this goal. Through centuries of warfare and loss, most of the paintings left the Korean Peninsula. They now survive in large part in Japanese temple collections.

The tradition has only re-emerged from obscurity in the past few decades as researchers have begun to identify specific visual characteristics that unite the works. These features include delicately painted garments, saturated mineral pigments accented with gold, and illusionary effects such as transparency. Although these similarities are now well-documented, there is still much to discover about the paintings’ artistic methods and cultural context.

Detail, Water-Moon Avalokitesvara (Suwol Gwaneum bosal); Korea, mid-14th century; hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk; Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1904.13

Detail, Water-Moon Avalokitesvara (Suwol Gwaneum bosal); Korea, mid-14th century; hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk; Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1904.13

Scholars and specialists who work to unravel the mysteries of these paintings will visit the Freer|Sackler in March for our symposium Goryeo Buddhist Painting: A Closer Look. Celebrating a new digital catalogue that features sixteen Goryeo Buddhist paintings in US museums, the event will introduce new research into the works’ historical, religious, and geographic contexts. English-language versions of all papers will be provided at the symposium, as presentations will be given in Japanese, Korean, or English.

Discover more art objects from the Goryeo dynasty in our collection, and zoom in to see the delicate details of Goryeo Buddhist paintings.