Zenmi – A Taste of Zen: Paintings, Calligraphy, and Ceramics

Tea bowl Named “A Taste of Zen” (Zenmi 禅味)
Artist: Seki Bokuō 関牧翁 (1903 – 1991), with Inoue Kōji Shunpo
Kyō-yaki ware; earthenware with overglaze enamel decoration, 3 ⅛” x 5 ¼” (8 x 13.5 cm), signed with a kakihan, Shōwa Period, 1970s

October 18, 2011 – January 22, 2012

From the Riva Lee Asbell Collection

Zen is a form of Buddhism known for its reliance on personal introspection as a means of achieving enlightenment. Zen espouses a non-rational approach to understanding truth and has a tendency to challenge spiritual complacency and the usual perception of reality. Zenga, the subject of this exhibition, is the art of Zen. The exhibition features over 100 works of art including paintings and calligraphy mounted as hanging scrolls, inscribed ceramics used in the tea ceremony, and other objects associated with the often quirky practice of Zen. The exhibition examines the artistic work of 25 influential Zen leaders of the 20th century who served as abbots to leading Zen monasteries in Japan. Their art is a form of teaching intended to aid students of Zen in breaking the bonds of dualistic and logical thinking. The Zen masters, or roshi, who created these works acted true to their calling as teachers and guides, taking up the brush late in life only after accumulating the experiences and wisdom of a lifetime. The result is a tradition of visual expression with tremendous spirit, charm, and visual impact, producing a body of art unlike that of any other world religion.

Related Films & Publications

In order to better understand and appreciate this exhibit, our curator recommends:

Zenmi, A Taste of Zen
Paintings Calligraphy and Ceramics from the Riva Lee Asbell Collectionby Veljko Dujin with an essay by Audrey Yoshiko Seo
Available in the Museum Store

Moon by the Window
The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada by Shodo Harada
Available in the Museum Store


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