The Artful Recluse Chinese Art Exhibition
The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th-Century China The Santa Barbara Independent
There’s a feeling of bright anticipation at the entrance to The Artful Recluse Chinese art exhibition , the exhibit currently on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Here, Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art Susan Tai and a team of distinguished scholars and lenders have assembled one of the most ambitious shows of Chinese art ever mounted in this country. But there’s also an enigmatic undercurrent of another sort of excitement mixed in, and it comes from the show’s fascinating subject, which is the mysterious and idiosyncratic Chinese tradition of hiding out — reclusion as a principled (and highly stylized) withdrawal from public life.
The title of the show refers to a 17th-century phenomenon that occurred when the Manchu invasion of 1644 ended the Ming Dynasty. That’s when many Ming officials embraced a highly cultivated version of “the simple life,” and traded the high government positions they had for such activities as wandering in the wilderness, writing poetry, and painting. These privileged, sophisticated, and self-styled hermits were the victims of partisan politics within the original form of big government. Men like Xiang Shengmo, Bada Shanren, and Shitao — all brilliantly represented inThe Artful Recluse — belonged to a tight-knit but disenfranchised cultural elite in the 17th century. Together, they managed to turn playing hard-to-get into a power move that redefined the relations of art and status to political office in a country where all three were taken very seriously. Moreover, they did so through creating some of the world’s most enthralling and genre-defying works of art. In short, we have a lot to learn from the heroes of The Artful Recluse. Click here to READ MORE
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