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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 60 May all Motherly sentient beings be blissful and happy May all the lower realms be permanently empty And may all the bodhisattvas on whatever stage they remain Fully accomplish all of their aspirations. With that prayer ringing, you enter an exhibition that would not look out of place in any secular arena (museum, alternative space, or international biennial) but that holds a question quivering with stored kinetic urgency, like a tightly pitched string: Have artists—quietly and almost invisibly— become a conduit for Buddhism’s entry into the West? This exhibition—and several others focused on art and Buddhism, including those recently associated with the Buddhism Proj- ect (on the East Coast), and Awake: Art, Buddhism, and the Dimensions of Consciousness (on the West Coast)—are early ventures toward an answer. It’s hard to tell how many artists represented here are Bud- dhist practitioners, but their sympathy or empathy with the Dalai Lama and what he evokes is evidently not restrained by their degree of exposure to the nuances of Buddhism. This ex- hibition is self-selecting, in the sense that the organizers—the Committee of 100 for Tibet, the Dalai Lama Foundation, and curator Randy Rosenberg, helped by a set of international ad- visers—sent letters to artists whose aesthetic histories they felt were compatible with the show’s intentions. Artists were asked to donate a work for a traveling exhibi- tion—which opened at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles in June, is at the Loyola University Mu- seum of Art in Chicago from October 28 through January 5, and comes to the Rubin Museum of Art in New York in March 2007—and for eventual sale at a fundraiser after the tour ends. Those who responded became part of the show, so it’s interesting to see who contributed. Traditional iconography is quite rare in The Missing Peace. There is a “touch-the-earth” thangka lent by the Dalai Lama and an Avalokiteshvara limned in brilliant mineral pigments by Yumyo Miyasaka, a Shingon monk who grew up in his father’s temple and studied oil painting in Tokyo and thangka painting in Dharamsala, facts that speak to the cross-cultural influences at work here. The “not-a-Buddhist” category includes Richard Avedon, whose brilliance as a photographer was to know the media stars and shoot them in telling circumstances. Avedon’s image of the Dalai Lama surrounded by his monks is an astute study of their candor and clarity, as well as a testament to the star power of His Holiness and, increasingly, of his message. Viola, Marina Abramovic, and Laurie Anderson have long been known for their complicity with the spirit and heart of Bud- dhism, although the art press has been persistently befuddled in interpreting what that might mean for their work. Abramovic met the Dalai Lama in the 1980s while she was filming in India, Right: At the Waterfall by Marina Abramovic, 2000-2003. Continuous video loop. Opposite, above: Reincarnation by Salustiano, 2005. Pigments and acrylic resins on canvas.