Contemporary Tibetan Artists Transform Tradition

Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond makes a strong case for the awesomeness of the Ruben Museum and the vibrancy of Himalayan art. Nine contemporary artists from Tibet created works who handle the Tibetan art traditions passed down to them with a knowledge, use, and comment on the West. The differences between the Western world where these artists practice and their Tibetan roots is a major theme, as one can see in one of Gonkar Gyatso’s self portraits above. All the artists showed some very strong work, both in its own right and in conjunction with the rest of the Rubin museum, which provides such a great background on the tradition that these artists have inherited.

Losang Gyatso has some beautiful work up, including my favorite, above. His latest digitally manipulated prints glow with bright, unfocused colors. This image was inspired by a traditional piece in the permanent collection.

Tsherin Sherpa, Untitled, 2010

Sherpa’s work, above, reminded me strongly of the recent Takashi Murakami exhibition at Gagosian. Murakami also includes a plethora of brightly colored skulls in this large scale painting that references Japanese Bhuddist tradition (detail left). It is not uncommon to see dancing and smiling
skulls in traditional Tibetan Bhuddist art, although perhaps not in neon hues. While in Sherpa’s work, each tiny skull is painted, Gonkar Gyatsu often uses skull stickers and others materials to create images based on traditional presentations of the Bhudda.

If you haven’t made it to the Rubin Museum yet, try to check it out while Tradition Transformed is still on view–through October 18.

2 thoughts on “Contemporary Tibetan Artists Transform Tradition

  1. Thank you for this glimpse into a new take on the art of an ancient culture. I am particularly taken by the fact that one artist is digitally manipulating his images. Daring to tinker with traditions and religious symbols–exciting stuff.

  2. It is, rather. Often the artist use traditional techniques to depict new subjects, or might incorporate things like stickers into their paintings. On one hand it is playful, but there is usually a subtext of social comment.

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