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Unstill Waters: Contemporary Photography from India

December 10, 2022-June 11, 2023
Unstill Waters: Contemporary Photography from India foregrounds landscapes of India, real and reimagined, as powerful means of examining environmental and social issues concerning us all. Through still and moving image, seriality, and portraiture, five leading contemporary artists explore rapidly changing natural and built environments in India, from riverbanks, ancient forests, and city streets to surreal symbolic settings.

Ravi Agarwal and Atul Bhalla convey the profound importance of water in human life, highlighting enduring social and cultural connections to the sacred yet endangered Yamuna River. Gigi Scaria and Ketaki Sheth produce dynamic and disorienting portrayals of life in New Delhi and Mumbai. Sheba Chhachhi composes a provocative self-portrait that evokes a profound relationship to place as well as to her own focus on the representation of women in visual culture. Dynamic and varied in scale, format, and content, Unstill Waters also celebrates the spectacular recent gift of Sunanda and Umesh Gaur, which significantly expands the museum’s holdings of South Asian photography.

A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur

November 19, 2022-May 14, 2023
Around 1700, artists in Udaipur (a court in northwest India) began creating immersive paintings that conveyed the mood (bhava) of the city’s palaces, lakes, and mountains. These large paintings and their emphasis on lived experience have never been the focus of an exhibition.

With dazzling paintings on paper and cloth—many on public view for the first time—A Splendid Land reveals how artists conveyed emotions, depicted places, celebrated water resources, and fostered personal bonds over some two hundred years in the rapidly changing political and cultural landscapes of early modern South Asia.

The exhibition is organized as a journey that begins at Udaipur’s center and continues outward: first to the city, then to the countryside, and finally to the cosmos. A soundscape by the renowned filmmaker Amit Dutta invites contemporary audiences to sense—and not just see—the moods of these extraordinary places and paintings.

Rinpa: Creativity Across Time and Space

October 1, 2022-February 5, 2023
The Japanese painting movement now known as Rinpa was a loose association of artists that began around the dawn of the seventeenth century and continued into the nineteenth century. Their aesthetic came to define an almost stereotypical image of Japanese art consisting of stylized forms in bright colors. The National Museum of Asian Art invites you to explore a selection of paintings and ceramics by several generations of Rinpa artists from their collection.

Living in Two Times: Photography by Bahman Jalali
and Rana Javadi

August 6, 2022–January 8, 2023

Living in Two Times features the work of Bahman Jalali (1944–2010) and his wife and closest collaborator Rana Javadi (born 1953). Noted for their sharp documentary images and haunting photomontage works, the artists are among the most influential figures in the development of late twentieth-century photography in Iran. Driven by the medium’s powerful—and fragile—relationship to memory, Jalali and Javadi created an unparalleled visual record of a tumultuous period in their homeland.

This exhibition features images by both photographers from the iconic series Days of Blood, Days of Fire, capturing events in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, as well as images from Jalali’s Khorramshahr: A City Destroyed and Abadan Fights On, drawn from his years spent on the Iran-Iraq warfront. Throughout his career, Jalali returned continually to his project of observing the changing lives and landscapes of Iran. A third section of the exhibition presents a selection of his images of fishing communities along the northern Persian Gulf. In addition to their documentary projects, Jalali and Javadi preserved early twentieth century archives, which they used as a basis for creating vivid photomontages that explore the role of the medium in documenting history. This will be the first museum retrospective in the United States that offers a glimpse of Jalali’s extensive practice and the first to be presented together with a selection of Javadi’s evocative work from the late 1970s to the present.

Feathered Ink

August 27, 2022-January 29, 2023
Across three galleries, Feathered Ink explores how Japanese artists have experimented over several centuries with different brush techniques in their depictions of avian subjects. Drawing from the Freer Gallery of Art’s extensive collection of bird-and-flower paintings, the exhibition includes hanging scroll paintings, folding screens, ceramics, and printed books.

In Japan, paintings on the theme of birds and flowers began to appear during the Heian period (794–1185) as a way of referencing seasonal associations or auspicious homonyms or of replicating the natural world in remarkable detail. Depicting a variety of bird species in naturalistic or paradisiacal environments offers a tantalizing opportunity for an artist to showcase their skills through the use of virtuosic ink brushwork techniques to represent different feather types and the textures of plumage and foliage. Adding colors can provide further layers of symbolic meaning and decorative effect. Birds are also popular motifs found on early modern Japanese ceramics, rendered through inlaid slip designs, molding, and polychrome pigments. Some of the vessels in this exhibition even provide a glimpse into how Japanese potters emulated the painterly effects of ink on clay surfaces.

Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection

March 19, 2022–January 29, 2023
Expect the unexpected. The exhibition Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection focuses on the captivating stories and urban legends of individuals living on the fringes of society in early modern Japan. Key subjects in theater, literature, and visual arts reveal antiheroes and underdogs whose virtues are often embodied by their rejection of societal norms, making them misfits and moral exemplars at the same time. The exhibition will follow virtuous bandits, tattooed firemen who love to fight, rogues from the kabuki theater, and others.

Highlighting the transformative gift of the Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection to the National Museum of Asian Art, Underdogs and Antiheroes features subjects that are not commonly associated with traditional Japanese print culture but were nevertheless central to the interests of an early modern public. The exhibition will explore new visual and thematic ground, further strengthening the museum’s trailblazing role in reconsidering presentations of Asian cultures.

Meeting Tessai: Modern Japanese Art from the Cowles Collection

August 13, 2022–February 18, 2024
Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) exemplifies the modern Japanese painter. Contemporaries praised his avant-garde works, yet Tessai created his nonconformist paintings in a traditional way, basing them on ancient Japanese art and Ming and Qing paintings imported from China. Tessai’s teacher Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875)—nun, potter, calligrapher, poet, political activist—was at the vortex of immense political changes in Japan as the country’s feudal system collapsed and a constitutional monarchy was established. Rengetsu’s art, which harks back to inspirations from the twelfth century, inspired a generation of modern artists like Tessai.

Meeting Tessai highlights a transformative gift of early modern and modern Japanese paintings and calligraphy from the Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection. It is also the first major American exhibition in five decades to explore the significance of pan–East Asian influences—a pertinent topic in today’s interconnected world—through the work of Tessai, Rengetsu, and modern Japanese painting.

Freer’s Global Network: Artists, Collectors, and Dealers

Ongoing
This exhibition looks closely at the interconnected web of artists, dealers, and collectors who helped shape the Freer Gallery of Art’s collection amid the shifting political and economic environment of the early twentieth century. Learn about some of the fascinating characters who played instrumental roles in museum founder Charles Lang Freer’s global network, including art dealers Bunkio Matsuki and Dikran Kelekian, collector Agnes Meyer, and artist Mary Chase Perry Stratton. The captivating display of objects in this gallery, which includes American paintings and stoneware, Japanese ceramics, ancient Chinese bronzes, and Near Eastern pottery, illustrates that network in operation.

Read more about Freer's Global Network, click here

Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand

Ongoing
Red painted spirals swirl across the surfaces of these vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Recent research into their materials, techniques, and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage and its profound cultural and material legacy.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

Ongoing through 2025
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room includes more than two hundred bronzes, paintings, silk hangings, and carpets that were created in Tibet, China, and Mongolia between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arranged to reflect Tibetan Buddhist concepts and customs rather than museum conventions, the glittering room evokes the Himalayan portals that bridge the mundane and the sacred worlds.

The objects, assembled by collector Alice S. Kandell over many years, are placed on painted furniture, arranged among paintings and textiles, and presented without labels. With an aural dimension of chanting monks, this dynamic and densely layered display restores the relationships between Buddhist figures and viewers that are typically dissolved within museums.

Lectures and Programs at NMAA

Curator-Led Tour of A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur
In person event, January 17, 2023, 11am–12pm and
January 20, 2023, 11am–12pm
Meet curator Debra Diamond in the galleries for a tour of A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur. 

Repair and Treatment on Paper
In person event, January 19, 2023, 1–2 pm
Tears and losses are among the most common damages book and paper conservators encounter. The museum’s paper conservator Rhea DeStefano will show the different kinds of papers, tools, and adhesives used in repair treatments.

Gallery Talk: Synchronicity Across Art + Time
In person event, January 20, 2023, 12:30–1:30pm
Interesting connections continue to be discovered across art, culture, and time. Join National Museum of Asian Art curator Kit Brooks and curators Renato Miracco and Susan Behrends Frank from The Phillips Collection for an in-gallery conversation about a surprising link between the painting Pigeons at Sensoji by Watanabe Seitei and the exhibition An Italian Impressionist in Paris: Giuseppe De Nittis at the Phillips Collection. Learn about Seitei’s influence on De Nittis’s art techniques and trace the overlapping timelines between the two artists that helped uncover this uncanny connection.

This event takes place at The Phillips Collection at 1600 21st Street NW in Washington, DC.

Read more and register, click here.