Sunday, April 20, 2008

Shinjo Ito

A chance encounter
with a half-page ad
in the Chicago Tribune

led me to this exhibit

in an upscale private exhibition hall
about a mile south of the Chicago Loop
(a perfect location, BTW, for art exhibits
that don't get accepted into
the public venues)

and why wasn't his exhibit
held at the Art Institute of Chicago
or the Cultural Center
or the Field Museum?

Why is religious art
only acceptable to these institutions
if it's hundreds of years old ?


But getting back to this exhibit...

These small, seated, Bodhisattvas
were the kind of pieces I liked the most,
and would compare nicely
with the hundreds on display
in the Tibetan room at the Field Museum.

This was my favorite standing figure,
but once
he made the poses more complicated
or the pieces larger,
he lost me.

The large pieces get cartoonish,
and the really large piece,
his Parinirvana ,
looks like a float
in a Mardi Gras parade.

"I am no professional, So when I think about it, I feel uneasy as to how much of the loving kindness, compassion, and virtue of the Buddha the images I create with my amateur skills can express. But I do pour my soul into the job, with sincere heart, as if offering three bows for every cut of the chisel. The only thing clearly showing in my work may be that."
- Shinjo Ito (1906-1989)

And no -- he was not a sculptor
so much as an aeronautical engineer
who founded a religious order,
Shinnyo-En ,
in 1936

(and BTW -- this is where
Wikipedia really shines,
because it's the most accessible
location on the web to find information
about a contemporary religious sect
that hasn't been presented
by itself

Here's the leader himself,
enthroned in a nice cushy chair

And here's his wife,
who was also a spiritual leader of group
in life as well as death

And here's one of their children
who died young,
but still communicates
with initiates
from his home in a distant paradise.

All of which is,
of course,
more important to followers of the sect
than it is to artsy types like myself,
for whom all these liturgical
but self-referential details
are as goofy as anything
found in museums of contemporary art.
(so why wouldn't the MCA host the exhibit?)

what really bothers me,
is why Shinjo Ito
didn't hire some real sculptors.

Not everyone is born to found a religious order --
but, neither, is everyone born to
to design magnificent sculpture
like the ones in Nara

But like many Asian gentlemen
Shinjo Ito had quite a hand for calligraphy
and I really enjoyed his
"Eternal is the Dharma Stream"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

as to why he didn't hire a sculpyor, Ito answered this himself in a quote I found at the exhibit:
“What I seek to create is not just the physical form of a Buddha figure,” Shinjo Ito was quoted as saying. “My purpose for sculpting them is to inspire and motivate everyone to find the enlightened [Buddha] nature within their own selves and grow spiritually.”

May 11, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Isn't that also what the sculptors at Nara were trying to do?

(i.e -- not just show us what Buddha looked like -- who really knows, anyway? -- but to assist in meditation)

May 11, 2008  

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