Art Complex Museum to host tea ceremonies starting June 28

DUXBURY, MA - The first in a series of four public Japanese tea ceremonies will be offered by the Art Complex Museum at 2 p.m., on Sunday, June 28. Aiko Somi Rogers, who was trained by the Urasenke School of Tea in Japan, will conduct the ceremony. Rogers will explain the ceremony and answer questions. Utensils used for the tea span four centuries, and the ceremony itself is a quiet, simple ritual based on hospitality.

Additional tea ceremony presentations are scheduled for 2 p.m., on July 26, which will be a family event, Aug. 30 and Sept. 27.Admission is free but seating is limited and available on a first-come basis. Guests are advised to dress for the weather. In case of rain, the presentation will take place inside the museum at 189 Alden St., Duxbury The program is supported primarily by the Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Family Charitable Trusts, and by gifts from friends of the museum.

Master of emotions

AT the opening ceremony of Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation, the artist most sought-after by guests for autographs and photographs was Takashi Murakami (pic).

One of Japan’s leading contemporary artists, Murakami – the only visual artist to make Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” last year – proved to be a crowd-pleaser. Always smiling and accommodating, he granted the Asian media a brief interview.

Asked how the current art scene is driven by financial motives, Murakami, 46, says it is money that allows creativity to thrive. “At the end of the day, art needs a rich ground like Paris, New York and London.”

He is surprised by Hong Kong’s rise in the art world, and feels the city is headed in the right direction. For example, he points out, the recent Hong Kong International Art Fair (May 14-17) drew a record attendance and robust sales.

Asked what inspires him, Murakami says, “As artists, we need to feel emotions all the time. For instance, I attended a funeral last week and there were a lot of people crying. Although I was sad, I was inspired by all the emotions surrounding me.”

Another emotion that inspires him is anger. “That’s why I am always asking my colleagues to make me angry,” he says, drawing laughter from the crowded room.

His art pieces may be colourful and bright but Murakami explains that “I always emphasise that the dark side exists even in cuteness and in the thoughts of peace-addicted people.”

A graduate of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, this prolific contemporary artist gained fame for his art style, called Superflat, which is characterised by flat planes of colour and graphic images involving a character derived from anime and manga. It is an artistic style that comments on otaku lifestyle and subculture, as well as consumerism and sexual fetishism, he explains.

In past media interviews, he was asked about straddling the fine line between art and merchandising. His reply: “I don’t think of it as straddling. I think of it as changing the line. What I’ve been talking about for years is how in Japan, that line is less defined, both by the culture and by the post-War economic situation.

“Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘high art.’ In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay – I’m ready with my hard hat.”

According to the Wikipedia, Murakami – like the legendary Andy Warhol – takes low culture, repackages it, and sells it to the highest bidder in the “high-art” market. But unlike Warhol, he makes his repacked low culture available to other markets in the form of paintings, sculptures, videos, T-shirts, key chains, mouse pads, plush dolls and limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags.

In November 2003, ArtNews had it that Murakami’s work was among the most desired in the world. At Christie’s last May, Chicago collector Stefan Edis reportedly paid US$567,500 (RM1.9mil) for his 1996 Miss ko-2, a life-size fiberglass cartoon figure. In May 2008, Murakami’s sculpture of a naked boy, My Lonesome Cowboy, sold for US$15mil (RM52mil) at a Sotheby’s auction.

Wow! Natural Art in the Ocean

This photo, taken from a NASA satellite, reveals the life embedded in two ocean currents that are converging in the Pacific Ocean.

In the northwest Pacific, the Oyashio Current flows down out of the Arctic, past Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Around the latitude of Hokkaido, Japan, it begins to veer eastward and converges with the warmer Kuroshio Current, flowing into the area from the south.

The new image illustrates how the convergence of these two currents affects phytoplankton, the microscopic plant-like creatures that form the base of the marine food web, scientists explained.
When two currents with different temperatures and densities — cold, Arctic water is saltier and denser than subtropical waters — collide, they create eddies. Phytoplankton growing in the surface waters become concentrated along the boundaries of these eddies, tracing out the motions of the water. The swirls of color visible in the waters southeast of Hokkaido (upper left), show where different kinds of phytoplankton are using chlorophyll and other pigments to capture sunlight and produce food. The bright blues just offshore of Hokkaido may be churned up sediment, rather than phytoplankton.

During the spring bloom season, nutrients are abundant in the surface waters. The water has been "resting" all winter, when light levels were too low — and storms were too frequent — to support phytoplankton growth.

But as the phytoplankton deplete the available nutrients, the bloom will taper off. At this stage, the eddies in the convergence zone can give a boost of nutrients at the surface because they don't just circulate the surface water; they also produce upwelling. The upwelling can draw nutrient-rich water up from deeper in the ocean, allowing smaller blooms to occur later in the growing season.

The washed out appearance of the image at lower left is from sunglint—the (blurred) mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water. At upper right, a plume of haze, perhaps smoke from fires in Mongolia and Russia, cuts across the scene.

The image, from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, was taken May 21 and released this week.

Asian Art Museum brings way of the Samurai to SF

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Asian Art Museum curator Yoko Woodson has organized many important exhibits — including the memorable two-part show of works by Hokusai and Hiroshige a decade ago — but the museum’s upcoming “Lords of the Samurai” may well become her biggest, most spectacular accomplishment.

Woodson brought the Hokusai/Hiroshige drawings from the Honolulu Academy of Arts’ James Michener collection to The City, making their public viewing possible for the first time, although individual pieces had been around.

With the Samurai exhibit, which opens Friday, Woodson is unlocking the key for hidden treasure none of which has been available outside Japan.

In fact, some of the 160 objects — armor, weaponry, paintings, lacquer ware, ceramics, costumes and more — are not readily available to the public even in Japan. The reason: Contents of the exhibit coming to Larkin Street are the private possessions of one family.

Woodson and former museum director Emily Sano began work on the show four years ago when former Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa (in office 1993-94) came to San Francisco on a business trip and visited the museum.

Hosokawa’s family is one of the most prominent Samurai clans, going back more than a half a millennia, between the 14th and 19th centuries, which were dominated by warriors who formed the country’s military aristocracy.

“This is the first time that the family’s heirloom arms and armor, paintings and decorative and applied art objects are to be shown in a comprehensive way in the United States,” says Hosokawa.

“Through the stories of the Hosokawa family, illustrated through their superb collection, we can understand the nature of the upper echelon of the warrior elite in early modern Japan,” according to museum director Jay Xu.

The Hosokawa collection in Japan is housed in the Eisei-Bunko Museum and in the family’s former home, Kumamoto Castle on Kyushu island. Ten of the artworks carry the designation of “important cultural properties” or “important art objects” due to their artistic and historical significance to the nation.

Because of their importance and fragility, some of the works will be rotated Aug. 3, replaced by others.

Besides their primary fame as elite warriors, the Samurai have also excelled in artistic, cultural and spiritual pursuits, all reflected in the exhibit.

“The Legacy of a Daimyo Family,” the show’s subtitle, refers to “great name,” meaning the standing of the Hosokawa family. Throughout 18 generations, the lords practiced and promoted the arts, even more prominently than did ancient European royal families.

Hosokawa, 71, himself is a celebrated tea practitioner, who has won acclaim for his skill as a ceramist and calligrapher. Some of his tea bowls and other tea ceramics are among the many on view in the exhibition.

From an earlier time, Sumimoto Hosokawa (1489—1520) is described as a great archer and horseman, “far above other humans ... also versed in waka [a form of Japanese poetry] and appreciates the moon and the wind.

“Outside the citadel, he takes bows and arrows; in meditation and reading of sacred books he protects Buddhism. Inside and outside, pledging to the mountains and rivers for the sake of the rulers and vassals, always with propriety and benevolence, he attains saintly wisdom.”


Lords of the Samurai

Where: Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except closed Mondays and until 9 p.m. Thursdays; show runs Friday through Sept. 20

Tickets: $17 general; $13 senior; $12 college students; $7 youths; discounts after 5 p.m. Thursdays; $5 first Sunday of each monthContact: (415) 581-3500,