January 21, 2011

diamond vehicle

Carpet of Flayed Man, China for Tibet, 19th Century, wool, cotton, and dye, 54.5 x 36.75 inches
I love the Metropolitan Museum.  Today, me and an art pal spent an epic five hours nerding-out on their fantastic collection.

Rugs and Ritual in Tibetan Buddhism is amazing and on display until June 26, 2011.
Located in the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, 3rd floor.

carpet of a flayed elephant, Mongolia, 19th cent., wood, cotton, and dye, 77.5 x 51.5 inches
"Vajrayana and Tantrayana are the names most commonly applied to the advanced schools of Mahayana Buddhism practiced in Tibet. Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") has at its core the pursuit of higher spiritual awareness and, ultimately, enlightenment through the study and mastery of ritual activities that remove obstacles along this path. The "three poisons" that hinder spiritual advancement are identified as ignorance, greed, and hate, and much of the ritual enactment is devoted to quelling these negative passions. This exhibition explores the role of these empowering rites and of the utensils and other paraphernalia they employ. Some of these activities can be performed by novices; others involving advanced skills in visualization—creating a mind-picture of the deity under worship—are dangerous for anyone other than advanced practitioners in the tantric arts. Trance and exorcism are key elements within the repertoire of advanced performance meditations.

Carpet of flayed man, China for Tibet, 19th cent., wool, cotton, and dye, 54.5 x 36.75 inches
Many of the objects included in this exhibition are shocking to those unfamiliar with the meaning and purpose of Tibetan religious art; depictions of exposed brains in skull cups and flayed human skins, for example, are but an extreme expression of the Buddhist pursuit of bodily detachment. Although intended to elevate the initiated to a higher level of consciousness, to the uninitiated or the novice these images may seem simply gruesome. Two large cloth paintings on view were meant to be used expressly within a chapel dedicated to the wrathful protective deities. In this chapel, or gonkhang, invocation rituals were performed using many of the utensils displayed here. Much Vajrayana ritual is based on sacrifice, which has its origins in early Indian Vedic and Hindu practices. They share many of the same utensils and performance gestures, differing only in the symbolic meanings attached to them.

Carpet of flayed man, China for Tibet, 19th cent., wool, cotton, and dye, 73 5/8 x 49 3/4 inches
The wrathful deity Mahakala, an emanation of Akshobhya Buddha, features prominently. He serves as the principal destroyer of the corporeal bonds that tie us to our material and physical existence, thus impeding spiritual advancement. Likewise, Padmasambhava, one of the pioneer propagators of Buddhism in eighth-century Tibet, is an important figure in this ritual history. His instruction in and promotion of the Vajrakila Tantra, an early Indian tantric text, was a seminal moment in the development of Tibetan ritual, further stimulated in the fourteenth century with the promotion of these rites in the Sakya monastic tradition.

Carpet of Tiger-skin Design, China for Tibet, 19th cent., wool, cotton, and dye, 70 1/8 x 35 inches
 Tibetan tantric rugs serve as seats of power employed by practitioners of Esoteric Buddhism. The imagery—the flayed skin of an animal or human—is potent. Together with the utensils on view in the exhibition, these rugs are employed in a variety of esoteric rites. A tiger-pelt rug on view has a long ancestry in India, where holy men of various persuasions meditated and preached while seated on a flayed tiger skin. In Tibet these skin rugs were deployed principally in rites invoking the protective deities, and were a noted feature of the annual New Year's Eve exorcism dance performance (Tse Gutor, rtse dgu gtor) to cleanse away the past year's sins." - excerpted from the wall text in the gallery.

January 7, 2011

The Great Rose Transplant. *

Jay DeFeo and her legendary painting The Deathrose/The White Rose/The Rose. 1958-1966. Oil on canvas with wood + mica. 128 7/8 x 92 ¼ x 11 inches.

“On November 9, 1965, workers and a supervisor from Bekins Van and Storage Company work for seven hours to remove the painting from DeFeo’s Fillmore Street studio - a process that DeFeo dubs ‘The Great Rose Transplant.’ The ‘transplant’ entails removing the painting from the wall to which it has been attached for almost six years and cutting away about 2 feet of windowsill and wall before the painting can be removed and lowered by forklift to the waiting Bekins truck below. Bruce Conner shoots 700 feet of 35mm film documenting the painting’s removal from the studio. Within a day, DeFeo and Wally Hedrick vacate the 2322 Fillmore Street (SF, CA) building and separate.”

Photos (scanned) & text excerpted from Jay DeFeo and The Rose Edited by Jane Green and Leah Levy.

Click here to go to the Jay DeFeo online archive at SF MOMA.

Click here to go to the Jay DeFeo Trust.

* The images previously associated with this post have been removed as requested by the copyright holder.