Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Encounters and Experimentation

Thank you to everyone who made it out to the Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi: And Other Inspiring Encounters In and Beyond Modern Asian Art Symposium at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and congratulations to curator Natsu Oyobe and the staff at the UMMA for an amazing exhibition! It was a real honor to be part of such an important event.

I had a wonderful time exploring the idea of “encounters” with the other presenters/respondents, and the symposium and exhibition raised some important issues that will stay with me long after today. Can the notion of “encounter” offer some alternative to an overdetermined East/West dichotomy that still plagues the discipline of Art History? In another sense, in engaging with “encounters,” can we avoid some of the trappings of the term “influence” or the limitations of the nation itself? I think we all left with more questions than answers, but our collaborative exploration seems to open an important line of inquiry.

1949_1.190Looking at Noguchi’s Peking Drawings in tandem with the work of Qi Baishi was a treat, and this exhibition reminds me how hard it is to truly appreciate the quality of ink on paper when we view them via digital reproduction. There is something about the quality of the ink that still evades digitization. When creating these paintings, it is thought by conservators that Noguchi first painted the broad ink wash, followed by his finer ink contour lines (seen here). The initial gestural ink seems to capture the motion and spirit of the human body, while the finer details overlay in an interesting two-dimensional architecture. Thinking about this process, I couldn’t help but remember an art school exercise where a series of quickly sketched abstract scribbles on paper would be transformed into some kind of drawing (sometimes representational, sometimes abstract) hinged on the curves and movement of the initial lines. Although I highly doubt that this was Noguchi’s process, it is amazing to think about how the gestural interacts with the figurative. The product of Noguchi’s “encounter” with Qi does not result in mimicry, but vibrant experimentation through medium, format, and subject.

Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi: And Other Inspiring Encounters In and Beyond Modern Asian Art

I have the privilege of presenting “Untangling a “Hairy” Encounter: Making Sense of Ainu Representation at the World’s Fair” at a symposium in conjunction with the exhibition Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930. Very excited to think through these different “encounters.” Schedule after the cut!

Saturday, May 18, 9 AM – 5:00 PM
Helmut Stern Auditorium
University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)
525 South State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free and open to public

20130413-161905.jpgIn conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930, UMMA presents a one-day symposium on the significance and legacy of the creative relationship between the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and the Chinese ink painter Qi Baishi. As Noguchi’s Peking Drawings from this period dramatically demonstrate, this collaboration was far more complex and unpredictable than can be understood by the over-determined binary framework of Japonisme in Euro-America and the Westernization of culture in East Asia. The drawings are one striking manifestation of the broad range of encounters between different positions within and beyond modern Asian visual cultures that proliferated throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This symposium will bring together an impressive group of scholars of Asian art history to explore a diverse range of the kinds of inventions catalyzed by modern encounters such as that between Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi in Beijing in 1930.

Participants in the symposium include David Clarke (University of Hong Kong), Bert Winther-Tamaki (University of California, Irvine), Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (Frye Art Museum, Seattle), Yasuko Tsuchikane (Parsons The New School for Design), Christina Spiker (University of California, Irvine), Jason Steuber (Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida) and Natsu Oyobe (UMMA).

For questions, please send messages to David Choberka (dchoberk [at] umich [dot] edu)

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