Saturday, March 31, 2012
Art review: Noble Change: Tantric Art of the Himalaya at the Crow Collection
The most compelling reason to make a pilgrimage to the Crow Collection is to experience a culture far removed from our own.
The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art debuts Noble Change: Tantric Art of the High Himalaya on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Sculptures and a 20-foot silken panels that have been preserved from the late 17th to the early 20th century are displayed with quiet respect in the heart of the Dallas Arts District.
The collection features an array of of Buddhist statues depicting a variety of significant religious themes in Tantric Buddhism. In tones of gold, bronze, copper, and dark crimson, artists designed standing testaments to tantric ideals. Tantra itself refers to continuity and is employed in the reformation of the soul. In popular media, this practice has seen undue focus on its more sexual aspects. While the sculptures at the Crow Collection are certainly erotic, there is a clearly benevolent nature present that elevates each piece beyond the titillating.
The 11 copper-alloy sculptures function much like the religious woodcuts of medieval Europe. Pieces range in size from free standing statues to figures one could hold in their palm; each statue is its own complete parable of life, death, and morality. Every aspect of a piece bears metaphorical significance to the supplicant. The gesture of an outstretched hand down to the position of each finger is interpreted by the Buddhist and reflected upon inwardly. Much has been deciphered about the myriad details, but the statues in the Crow Collection still bear a bemusing amount of meaning yet unknown, or easily reinterpreted.
The most compelling reason to make a pilgrimage to the Crow Collection is to experience a culture far removed from our own. The images are exquisite, luxurious, and masterfully crafted, but are nearly alien in their humanity. The viewer must resign themselves of presupposed views of religion and morality. The purpose of each piece is not to depict gods and goddesses, spirits, or other supernatural figures; it is to depict, through vivid imagery, the multitude of threads that make up the human self. With expressive character they teach us where impurities lie in the depths of our soul, while others celebrate the ecstatic glory of the human condition with reverent sensuality. As Caron Smith, curator of the Crow Collection of Asian Art said, “The time is ripe to reveal tantra for what it is truly intended to be -- fresh, compassionate, open, produced out of wisdom, and devoid of preconception."
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