For the GOY* project, I chose to visit The Pavilion of Japanese Art in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and look at Japanese artworks, especially from the Jomon to Heian period. There were no event focusing on Japanese Art on LACMA, so I opted to join a Sunday tour of the Japanese art collection instead. Knowing at once that it would only last for 50 minutes, I wondered at first how the guide would condense the lecture of thousands of years of Japanese history and Japanese art, especially that it entails a lot of explaining and translating to do.
But the explanations as we went along the way were brief and concise and focused on the artworks, but were enough for us to take note of. What I intended to focus on were paintings from the Jomon to Heian period of Japanese Art, but instead I took note of different forms of Japanese artworks which I found interesting. There were several pieces that caught my attention, but those that I focused on were a ceramic vessel from the middle Jomon period, Jizo Bosatsu, which is carved wood sculpture from the late Heian period, and Seated Warrior, a sculpture from the Kofun period.
Japanese art on the Jomon period are mostly earthenware vessels, mostly deep pots made of clay. Potteries made from the Jomon period are characterized by rope markings, incised lines and applied coils of clay (Kleiner 91). These vessels, however psychedelically figured, have a variety of uses. They serve different purposes, from storage to burial (Kleiner 91). The vessels on the Japanese Art Tour on the LACMA mostly have textured bases, the incised rope markings very apparent, and have castellated rims.
Japanese art on the Kofun period is completely different. According to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Website, the art on this period is characterized by tombs furnished haniwa, or cylinders which are used as adornment for tombs on the era. The forms of the haniwa later evolved to simple geometric forms of houses, animals, birds, and other figures. The sculpture on the LACMA, however, resembles a Seated Warior form, hence, its title. The Heian period is characterized with artworks representing or illustrating Esoteric Buddhism (Kleiner, 2010).
Most of the artworks are Buddhist deities sculptures carved from wood, to which people worship. The sculpture of deities were characterized by a wardrobe of a monk’s, and all of them stood on top of a lotus, which symbolizes rebirth, according to the tour guide. I have expected Japanese art to be intricate, except maybe those from the Jomon period. But it turned out that even from the Neolithic period, the Japanese already had a sense of aesthetics that their vessels are adorned with rope markings.
For me, the abstract form of Jomon period art is its strength. The Kofun period art was indeed very interesting for me because the artworks were used to decorate tombs, and the decorations symbolizes the person in that tomb. Meanwhile, as expected, Heian art is deeply rooted on Buddhism, and has Chinese influences. At the end of the day, I realized that the evolution of Japanese art relied on what happened in Japan at the time these artworks were constructed. The colorful events strongly influences the frame of mind of the artists. History is what shapes art.