Test: Lunar New Year Approaches

Welcome to the Year of the Horse!logo_footer_gold-5a7bb439ecfa43dd082a4ab6a05f05c0

Test: Bell Ringing Reflections


Image of artwork in progress via the artist’s Instagram

Image of artwork in progress via the artist’s Instagram

Another year has gone by, and as always, we (literally) rang in the New Year in style with our annual New Years Eve Bell Ringing ceremony. The event has been a member and staff favorite for 28 years.

The end-of-year ceremony has its roots in a Buddhist temple practice that happens daily, each morning and evening. In present-day Japan, it is customary to ring the bell 108 times on New Years Eve to correspond with the number of evil desires we suffer from on earth. Ringing the bell 108 times rids us of our evil passions and purifies us for the upcoming year (the number differs in Korean tradition; in that ceremony, ringing 33 times symbolizes the Thirty-three Heavens, the Trâyastriṃœa, where the Buddhist guardian Indra resides).

The bell we use for the ceremony was made in Japan in 1532 by Daiji Temple in Tajima province. Our current belfry was constructed in 2002. About two weeks before each ceremony, our museum prep team brings the bell and belfry up from art storage and carefully installs them in Samsung Hall, where they remain on view for about three weeks.

When I started working at the museum about six years ago, I couldn’t believe the museum allowed visitors to strike a 16th century bell. But I’ve since realized how special a moment it is to be together with friends and family (and sometimes with a complete stranger), looking back over the past year.

Reverend Gengo Akiba from Soto Zen Buddhism in North America has led the ceremony for the past ten years. The ceremony includes a purification ritual and Heart Sutra chanting. It is a solemn and sincere moment, and even young children seem to understand the purity of it (and there were many young ones this year).

My favorite moments are when the group meets at the bell, shares good wishes with smiles and turns to ring the bell. And of course, afterward there is the inevitable scrambling to get selfies in, posing for the perfect shot with the bell. And in the rare moments when there is no one to claim the next turn at ringing the bell, people goodheartedly step in to ring it for everyone.

Holiday Gift Guide

Enjoy some art and get your holiday shopping done too! The Asian Art Museum offers all kinds of items that are perfect for kids and adults alike. Feel good knowing that all purchases support the museum’s educational programs and exhibitions, as well as the individual artists and their communities.

Check out our gift guide for a sampling of what you can find:

Zen Out

Buddha BoardBuddha board: Based on the Zen concept of living in the moment, paintings created on Buddha boards last just a moment or two. Using water, you can write or paint on the special paper, watch the image darken and then slowly fade away. Each Buddha Board comes with a brush and water tray. $12.95–$34.95

Korean Tea HankookKorean tea by Hankook Tea Company: Choose from more than 10 flavors, ranging from light green teas to full-bodied doo mool jaksul cha to the fragrant herbal teas of persimmon leaf.  The founder of the tea company, Yang Won Suh, was appointed the 34th Grand Master of Traditional Korean Foods by the Republic of Korea, awarded for superior production of hwang cha and matcha.  $10–$20

Homey Goodies 

Hand Carved Chops Stone SealsHand-carved chops. Created by the museum store’s resident artist Jun Pei Cui, these beautiful soapstone seals are a truly unique gift. Each hand-carved seal represents its owner through the use of a name, a phrase or an image. Cui is available Saturday and Sundays from 1–5 p.m. to help select and design the seal for recipients. $30 and up

Raised Bell Cup Set KwangJuYoRaised bell cup set: Korean ceramic company KwangJuYo reinterprets traditional Korean ceramics with a modern twist in this cup set from the Weolbaek (Moon white) collection. These cups are traditionally given in pairs as wedding gifts. Set of two porcelain cups in a wooden gift box. $70

Asian Art Museum cookbooksCookbooks. We carry over 60 cookbooks that span the entire continent. Learn to make dishes that range from comfort foods to innovative delectables. No matter the skills of the chef, there is a book for every budget.

Korean Jewelry BoxKorean jewelry box. Imported from Korea for In Grand Style, these jewelry boxes feature exquisite mother-of-pearl inlay. They open to reveal four small drawers. Available in six elegant designs. $100 (Member’s Price: $90)

Playful Toys

Stuffed Rhino DollStuffed rhino doll. The stuffed rhino doll resembles one of the most treasured objects in the museum’s collection. More than 3,000 years old, the bronze rhinoceros vessel is among the most celebrated ancient Chinese bronzes in the world. $25

Princess Sunyong DollPrincess Sun-yong doll. This limited-edition princess doll is designed by Bay Area artist and Asian Art Museum docent Pauline Tsui. The doll is adorably dressed in bright pink traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) with an embroidered carrying pouch that you can tuck her into. For ages 3 and up. $45

Wood Robot FigureWood robot. Designed in Korea, this all-natural figure will entertain children and adults alike. Crafted from four types of wood, the figure has a linseed oil finish that highlights the natural colors and grains of the material. We’ve got plenty of other gifts great for kids. $25 (Members price: $22.50)

All Around Appeal

Store-Tied RocksTied Rocks by Shizu Okino. Bay Area artist Shizu Okino combines the natural beauty of river stones and the intricate patterns of bamboo woven in traditional Japanese basket motifs to create Tied Rocks, unique gifts sure to please both traditionalists and contemporary fans. $25–$95

Luna Lee albumLuna’s New Solo Album. Korean YouTube sensation Luna Lee debuts her solo album featuring the gayageum, a zither-like string instrument.  The album features original songs as well as notable covers of classics by Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan. $12.98 (Members Price: $11.68)

See something you like or still looking for just the right thing? Come in and peruse our full selection. We’ve got wonderful wares as diverse as their price tags. The store is open during regular museum hours and doesn’t require paid admission – just let them know you’re there for some retail therapy. Happy holidays!

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day

The term janchi (feast or celebration) is very familiar to Koreans. We hold janchi for a baby’s first birthday and invite families, friends and neighbors. Getting a good grade on a university entrance exam is also for a cause for janchi. For graduations, weddings and housewarmings, we would host janchi. There would be plenty of food, music, colorful dresses and good cheer. Neighbors would come early and help prepare the food. Children would be corralled together to play games, eat, and just be kids.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day

When I first pictured the 5th annual KF Korean Culture Day program about a year ago, I imagined the chaotic and hectic janchi of activities I was used to seeing when I was young, with many different things to do for young as well as not so young. For a museum of art and culture, this was also an opportunity to highlight traditions while focusing on the next generation of artists and cultural leaders.

This year, we hosted 2,915 visitors to the museum thanks to the generous support from the Korea Foundation. That’s up 20% from the last year’s attendance (I had my wish of a hectic, crowded day)! A long line snaked through the 1st floor for a tasting of the goldongmyum, a delicious cold noodle dish that used to be a staple of royal palace celebrations in the Joseon dynasty.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day performances

There was a standing room only performance of traditional music and dance by students and teachers from Korea’s prestigious art school, Korean National University of Arts.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day crafts

Art activities and art demonstrations were popular all day. Families bustled around the AsiaAlive Korean paper making demonstrations with Aimee Lee, and lantern making activities staffed by our amazing volunteers and Art Speak teen interns.

A special lecture by UCLA Professor of History and Director of the Center for Korean Studies, John Duncan, explained impact of Confucian social structures on contemporary Korean life.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day tours

Storytellers and docents guided groups through to museum’s collection and the In Grand Style exhibition. They even had to add extra tours in the afternoon due to high demand.

My favorite part of the day was speaking to many visitors about their experience at the museum. My day was made when a visitor stopped me on the way out of the performance and asked “Do you know who worked on this program? Please tell them thank you for providing this incredible chance to see and learn about Korea! Now I have to come back to see it all over again.”

Newly on View: In the Chinese Galleries

This is part of an ongoing series in which our curators introduce artworks that have recently gone on display. The prep crew just finished putting up the last of the pieces for the Fall Chinese rotations.  As usual, the process was a pleasure.  He Li did her usual inspired choice of pieces to be included and in writing the labels.  In gallery 16 on the third floor is an embroidered hanging depicting an immortal paradise.   Bright and colorful, it is likely to have once been part of a set of four. In the Song to Qing gallery (gallery 17) we now have three textiles on view.  Visible as our visitors come off the elevator is an 18th century wrapper for a painting or calligraphy scroll.  The yellow silk and gold dragons are clear evidence this was meant for imperial consumption.  Denise Migdail, our textile conservator, mentions she particularly likes the cord attached to this piece:  ”A marvelous tour de force of reversible figured silk.”   With its ivory clip, it would have served to fasten the wrapper around the work of art.  The next piece on view is a bright red woman’s robe with floral designs in tapestry weave.   The third is a dragon robe of very fine gauze weave decorated with gold dragons among clouds.  The collar and the sleeve ends appear to be original to the piece, rare since these parts of a robe receive the most wear and are very often replacements.

Square tray, red.

Square Tray, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) or Yuan dynasty (1272-1368), 1127-1368. Lacquer; red. Asian Art Museum, B77M16.

We were also able to replace four lacquers in the Song to Qing gallery.  Li has chosen two pieces to go in the large case with the Song dynasty tea ceramics.  The large red tray is my personal favorite – it has no surface decoration – just wonderful and very subtle carving of the corners and the feet.  Imagine presenting those marvelous black glazed ceramic tea wares on such a tray!  The other lacquer newly on view in this case is a plate in the shape of a chrysanthemum blossom-with 59 petals, another a tour-de-force.  Two mother-of-pearl inlaid trays are also newly on view in other cases in the gallery.

China Cove, Carmel, California, 1963, by Chao Shao-an (Chinese, 1905-1998). Ink and colors on paper. From the Collection of Master Chao Shao-An, 1992.238.

China Cove, Carmel, California, 1963, by Chao Shao-an (Chinese, 1905-1998). Ink and colors on paper. From the Collection of Master Chao Shao-An, 1992.238.

The works in the Chao Shao-an gallery compliment Joseph’s installation of Qi Baishi.  There are six works by master Chao and a marvelous hanging scroll of a praying mantis on a banana tree by Fang Zhaoling.  Given to the museum by Avery Brundage in 1960, this is an early work by Fang completed when she was Chao Shao-an’s student.

Taking Action After Typhoon Haiyan

Our hearts go out to those impacted by the horrific and devastating Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). The reports are appalling enough to potentially stun some of us into saddened inaction. However, it’s now easier than ever to come together and lend a hand to our fellow brothers and sisters.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are several resources on how you can help, such as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and Asia Society Philippine Foundation, Inc..

The New York Times has compiled a list with a link to GuideStar (an organization committed to nonprofit transparency), which outlines its “expert-recommended” agencies to assist with informed charitable decision making. These are merely suggestions for getting started, because at times like this, it’s all hands on deck.

End of Summer

Michael Jang's photograph adorns the banners outside the museum. Photo courtesy Michael Jang.

Michael Jang’s photograph adorns the banners outside the museum. Photo courtesy Michael Jang.

Museum staff are currently installing the second Proximities show, and in the midst of that comes a wonderful sense of discovery. We finally are able to see how the works hang together and interact with each other. I liken the process to the old school photo lab, when sliding an exposed piece of paper into the chemical baths begins to reveal an image. Things come into view gradually, with a thrill in seeing the contours emerge. Knowing Me, Knowing You (a title that was suggested by Proximities 1 artist James Gobel) is named for a melancholy pop song by ABBA. And while I won’t go so far to place the tone of the upcoming show on the gloomy side, the colorful exuberance of the first show is replaced here with a more muted and domestic demeanor.

Mik Gaspay’s tatami mat installation sets things close to the ground in a way that evokes any number of films by Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese film director whose cinema speaks so simply and elegantly of shifting relationships, between generations and between East and West. In the installation, there is a sense of using the agency of Japanese aesthetics evoke the slippery nature of ethnic and cultural identity in more recent days. Looking across Gaspay’s piece at Michael Jang’s black and white photographs of his family in 1973 adds to that Ozu connection, as so many of his films are black and white and tug on the heart strings as they access those loving tensions between elders and youth. Jang’s photos evoke that feeling one gets while paging through a photo album that was just found in the attic.

We expected the images and sounds would blend into something new, but that tone is impossible to predict until the works meet each other for the first. The melded audio to the show is evocatively homey—the grumble of televised voices pervades the room from Kota Ezawa’s animation and via Pawel Kruk’s video reenactment; the bubbling soup pot in Gaspay’s piece signals a family meal; while the high tones of Chinese opera seep from the headphones that accompany Anne McGuire’s video. It’s as if the sounds of a clan are blending together in a house, an abode where everyone is in their own corner before convening for dinner. As in any household, the connections are formed through individuals who reside together, their noises, their obsessions, and the idols they selectively uphold, like posters in a teenage bedroom (Charlene Tan’s nod to Yayoi Kusama, Kruk’s Bruce Lee, Jang’s David Carradine in Kung Fu), and the different emotional tenors they strike. Barry McGee’s installation is yet to come—he’s installing a newly reworked piece that will certainly add another layer of the interpersonal to the exhibition. We’re getting close. The picture develops before our eyes.

Proximities, piecemeal

World on puzzle pieces

Pulling together a multi-part exhibition is an interesting animal, the notions of time and linkages don’t operate in the traditional manner—particularly when there’s a summer hiatus with another exhibition (the fascinating Cyrus Cylinder presentation)  in between. We are more accustomed to quick hits, in getting our curatorial premises out there in one shot. Allowing something to unfold in component parts requires trust and commitment on both sides of the equation—institution and audience—of being able to imagine how things will resonate over time, and space. I like the way SFMOMA’s current SECA exhibition takes place in different locations, allowing for the idea of a group of works to make sense the more pieces you encounter.

In a way, this reflects the challenge of considering Asia as a totality—the term itself encompasses multiple nations, borders, styles, land masses, terrains, religions, ethnicities, languages, foods—the list goes on. The term/concept doesn’t make sense with just one.

Similarly, the Asian Art Museum is an institution that serves a range of publics, each approaching the contents with different filters and expectations. It’s not an easy location to occupy. At the end of the run of the first Proximities show, it was exciting to see a flurry of web and social media conversations that raised some key issues. Questions about the museum’s mission were raised, these bringing to the surface the complicated expectations that audiences place upon the Asian. It was rewarding, though not always easy to parse the implications attached to the project. This was part of the plan, though each show is always a surprise when it makes the shift from something on paper to actual artwork in a space. The component parts bounce off each other in surprising, wonderful ways.

The intention of the Proximities series is that each show stand alone visually, but also that each will add aesthetic, social, and thematic concerns as well as deepening and complicating the questions raised previously. From the back end of the project, it’s an intriguing, shifting view, trying to anticipate how the series will create a complete picture. It’s exciting to see it happen.

Proximities 2: Knowing Me, Knowing You, which opens in a little over a month, will have a very different feeling than the first show. Where What Time Is It There? was purposefully colorful, hallucinogenic and clouded by the fantastical, Knowing Me is more retro in feel, nodding to ideas of nostalgia as a way in which we know each other. It’s a very different group of artists, with a whole other range of ‘proximities’ to the show’s themes. Further discussions will be raised, but also there will be the opportunity for some celebration—in honor of the show’s title, and its reference to ABBA, we’re celebrating the show with a karaoke afternoon on October 19. It will add a soundtrack to the exhibition, the set list something that may not reveal its meaning until all the voices have sung. Stay tuned!

Artist Toyin Odutola’s New Rendition

IYANU by Toyin Odutola, 2013. Pen ink and marker on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

IYANU by Toyin Odutola, 2013. Pen ink and marker on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

Toyin Odutola and I were planning her project for the museum’s Artists Drawing Club since last October, but we did not meet in person until the day before her event last week. Toyin graduated from the MFA program at California College of the Arts in May 2012 and moved to New York City this spring. All of our planning for this program took place over the phone, which might have been difficult if not for Toyin’s use of social media to document her art practice, an extremely helpful way to convey and understand her process. It almost felt like I was in her studio. This sensation of close connection through social media might seem like a novel and trendy idea, especially considering that she was featured in an ARTnews article, “What I Like About You: Artists to Follow on Instagram.” That type of documentation can provide practical, important information as well as reach a broad audience for her work.

During our initial talks, Toyin was really excited about a recent shift in the colors she uses in her drawings. Her new works featured a more subdued and restrained palette. We talked about how this change might be a great wayto view the museum’s collection through the formal lens of color. Ideas continued to develop after each talk and culminated in her project Rendition. While other projects in the Artists Drawing Club emphasized deliberate, face-to-face interaction between audience and artist, this project derived inspiration from Toyin’s social media practice to facilitate exchange. Using the hashtag #colormatch on Instagram and Twitter, she followed the stream of participant photos that were posted from the galleries when visitors matched the color of artworks to the swatches provided by Toyin. When she saw something of particular interest she included an element or motif from the object into the portrait she drew onsite. Along the way she shared progress online.

I interviewed Toyin right before her event.

Marc Mayer (MM): I learned that you use ballpoint pens in your drawings when I started to follow you on Instagram. You were on a flight and took pictures of a portrait in progress, which I loved seeing. Making work on an airplane made me very curious about the materials you use. What materials are you drawn to and why?

Toyin Odutola (TO): I am really drawn to ballpoint pens. The ballpoint pen is primarily seen as a writing tool, but the use of the ballpoint pen as an art material has existed since the 1950s, possibly earlier. I am drawn to pen ink for its duality, how blacks and whites are captured by the ink, how the pen is both a writing tool and an art material. It’s accessible and ubiquitous. The more layered the ink, especially if you cake it on, the more you can see the heavy dark and great light qualities of its materiality. It renders the concept of a black/white binary almost null. The ink embodies both qualities because of the nature of the viscous fluid. The ink also creates a sense of subtlety and immediacy, perfect for drawing. I’ve always been prone to drawing more than any other mode of creating. I sometimes paint, but it’s only been to support my drawing. I am attracted to materials that facilitate drawing and make its sense of immediacy. Pencils, pens, markers—these are my main tools. Sometimes I use acrylic ink and watercolors, but it all boils down to what helps the process of drawing move along smoothly and allows the ideas to flow.

Image of artwork in progress via the artist’s Instagram

Image of artwork in progress via the artist’s Instagram

MM: I am very interested in your presence on social media. How would you describe your use/practice of social media? How does it support and influence the way you work?

TO: The first introduction of my work to an audience came from interactions on social media. Concurrently, it was through the Internet and social media that I was first exposed to contemporary art and, in some way, the art world at large. I was inspired and heavily influenced by a number of burgeoning illustrators and comic-book artists who openly shared their work process. It was prior to the advent of official online tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, and it involved artists of all manner of mediums, varying fields and experience, taking process shots of their works and writing about their methodology in a very open way. Needless to say, it was a major part of my art education at the time. Through these various artists’ process blogs, I learned about materials, lighting, color—you name it, all from and the dialogues these posts generated.

I started my Tumblr blog around 2009, when I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to pursue art making. It became a space for me to explore artistic methods, theory and materials. I also used my blog as a catalog of how I felt while working. Initially, the blog was only viewed by me. I hardly had any followers and, honestly, that wasn’t my aim in the beginning. Soon, other artists, writers and designers began commenting on my posts. They would ask questions about what I was making, why I was making such work, and why I was using these materials –all questions I hadn’t really asked myself. The best interactions were getting recommendations to look at other artists I had not known, and artistic movements I had not yet studied. From that dialogue my work began to progress, and my independent art education blossomed. By the end of 2009 I was convinced I wanted to be an artist. It inspired me to apply for graduate school.

One could say I should thank the Internet for helping me get on the track I’m on today.

Today there are many more people viewing my work on social media. The response has really blown me away and often I am confronted with questions about why I share so much about my studio work online. In my mind, it is no different from the illustrator and comic-book artist blogs that inspired me. Maybe the difference is the art world, and that artists aren’t always comfortable or encouraged to share so much of their process, which is a shame. Maybe there is a flipside of sharing too much, where people give you direction on work instead of talking about ideas, which can be disconcerting. I am more interested in a constructive critique, friendly suggestions and, in some rare cases, collaboration.

Social media is a tool to connect to a different audience. I’m thinking of that kid, like myself not too long ago, who doesn’t have access to galleries or museums or studios; giving her/him a chance to see the day-to-day drudge of it all. To show people that, in the end, it’s all about the work. It’s not all glamorous, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important, meaningful and educational.

MM: I am curious if you think of your work as portraiture? Do any elements in your work challenge traditional portraiture? Does the concept of portraiture have any interest for you?

TO: I don’t mind being labeled as a portraitist; however, like everything that goes on in my studio, I’m not beholden to the practice. I admire portraiture and it is the main platform I use to create my works, but to limit my work to just creating portraits isn’t the case either. I admit, I am drawn to many artists who took more ownership of the term, such as John Singer Sargent, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Hans Holbein the Younger. But there are other artists who have used the parameters of portraiture beyond its initial purpose, such as Charles White, Kerry James Marshall, Alex Katz and Chuck Close.

I use portrait for conceptual means. I like some of the restrictions of portraiture. It’s a very basic premise. You are capturing the essence of a person at a certain time and place, but from there you can manipulate any of these elements and still constitute a portrait. I want to create spaces where things aren’t so concrete, spaces that aren’t so certain. The more you try to pin a feeling of a person down, it slips, no? I try my best to pin down that essence, which is crazy. How can you pin down something so abstract visually? You can try to capture it with color or various lines, but I know that part of a person is invention; part of what makes up an individual cannot be represented. That’s why I love portraiture.

We are living in a time when there is a plethora of ways and forms of portraiture. I like to carve out my own niche and create works that are distinctive, but also heavily entrenched in our contemporary moment. The fact that there are many ways of creating a portrait makes me more inclined to restrict the format: to decontenxualize the space surrounding a subject; to enhance the focus and emphasize a feature (skin, eyes, hair); to help the viewer to pay attention more intimately. I have been developing this focus of these portraits since 2009 and will continue to work on this a little longer. But what the future holds for me in portraiture is uncertain.

MM: You have mentioned that skin is really important in your work. What draws you to skin? Why do you find it so compelling?

TO: Skin is important because it is the singular feature where I can express the varying rhythms and lines that convey meaning or even poignancy. When it comes to how I draw skin, it may be the primary subject of the work, but what I hope is that skin becomes a gateway to how to read a person’s subjectivity. This has political implications related to the way people justify prejudice based on skin color. I want to invert this process and create a more positive and thoughtful outcome. I want to change people’s perception of skin, from seeing only the stereotype to seeing a fully formed, complex individual. Skin can be a vehicle to change ones perception, but that isn’t the end result of my work in and of itself.

MM: Do you listen to music while you work? What are three songs, artists or albums you are currently listening to?

TO: Yes, but it’s more of a tossup between music and movies. I love watching documentaries while working, which really means I love listening to them. Podcasts and audiobooks are great for my process. I get the visual experience through my drawing, so the experience of listening to great conversations and stories is ideal. Sometimes certain excerpts or random texts find their way into the titles of the drawings.

Right now, I’m obsessed with the band Inc., particularly their song “5 Days,” which has been on repeat in my studio. Also, two SOHN’s songs: “The Wheel” and “Bloodflows.” As for a third, I guess that would be the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” It’s one of my all-time favorites. Generally, I listen to just about anything that comes on shuffle from my computer. Lately, it’s been electronic music for some reason.

MM: You mentioned that Asian art has influenced you and your work. What is your interest in the Asian Art Museum and Asian culture?

TO: I’ve visited the Asian Art Museum while living in San Francisco, and I enjoyed the collection and its diversity and saw some very interesting exhibitions. I like that you always find something new or different whenever you visit. I also love that James Jean is a part of the collection. I am a HUGE fan of his work. As for Asian cultural and aesthetic influences, I have been fascinated with Japanese art history, especially printmaking, and, I’ll admit it, manga and anime culture have interested me since I was a kid. As an undergraduate in Alabama I obsessed over Chinese literati works and posters from the 1950s and ’60s.

The irony is, whenever I get asked about my influences for art, I have to say manga. I wasn’t one of those kids who knew at the age of five that I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t have that sort of precocious insight. I was like any other kid, just going through the motions. I didn’t even think of myself as an artist until I was about to graduate high school and start university. I read comics voraciously when I was young. I loved that the illustrative platform allowed and inspired a variety of ways to express narrative. The graphic nature of the work is what fascinated me most. Artists such as Takehiko Inoue, for instance, really influenced how I looked at art and what I enjoyed: sumptuous detail and pattern language; various ways of enhancing thick, rich blacks, and the infinite ways in which one could express a moment in a face or individual features, such as the eyes. I guess you could say that’s where it all started for me. Manga and anime continue to influence me.

MM: What is the project you are working on for the Artists Drawing Club?

TO: The project is Rendition, a collaboration between you and me. We’ve been discussing it for about a year now, and it came from this idea of incorporating the Asian Art Museum’s collection into a project. I was excited about creating a work that had some connection to the works on view. I had begun working with a more polychromatic palette only recently, and it was interesting to think about this change. I also work in a very controlled manner, so the possibility of creating a work in a site-specific way intrigued me.

I like the notion of having the color palette influence the potential of a work. Normally, when I set out to create a drawing, I lay out which colors I wish to enhance and explore. For Rendition, we looked at features in the museum’s collection and narrowed the colors down to five. From there the project takes a sort of interactive turn. We wanted to include the audience, and although the idea of drawing on site is different from my studio method, you suggested taking the experience a step further: having the audience go through the collection and find the colors in the works, all while I draw the portrait on site, cataloging the colors found via social media. Of course, I would like to finish the work in the time slot of the same day, so I will be working on the piece a little ahead of the scheduled event, but I will be keeping track of the logs while I am working.

What excited me the most (and sort of terrified me) was the idea of having this entire thing documented with a live video projection. This gives the audience a chance to see my method in person, in real time, something which I tend to do mainly through social media platforms, i.e. my blog and Instagram. It gives the audience a chance to see the evolution of a work, and it bridges the gap between the studio and exhibition. I look forward to it all. I just hope I don’t make too much of a mess of it. Right now, I am still planning which portrait to draw. I have a few sketches laid out. I suppose it won’t be revealed until the event takes place.

3D printing for everyone

A few months ago I got an email from a young entrepreneur with a product to push.

As you can imagine, I get a lot of unsolicited emails trying to sell the museum products and services. I’ll be honest with you—most of them just get deleted. But this one stood out. Will Drevno had something we couldn’t ignore.

I replied right away.

Now we have the privilege of being one of the first users of the Dreambox. It’s a 3D printing vending machine. Cool doesn’t even begin to describe this.

The Dreambox team installing the 3D printing vending machine.

The Dreambox team installing the machine.

The team at Dreambox have taken a consumer-level 3D printer and modified it for use in a vending machine context. The printer sits in a plexiglass case, so you can see it working. Using a tablet interface, visitors can purchase the model that just printed. We’re offering models of objects from our collection; at the moment there are just two, but we’ll be adding more soon.

This is a trial for us and for Dreambox. They’ve had a machine on campus at Berkeley for a while, but this version is their first production model. That means they’re tweaking the interface and the models as they go along, making changes based on observation and visitor feedback. As you’d expect with a new piece of equipment, things don’t always go exactly to plan, but the Dreambox team is on call to sort out customer issues.

For us, we’re building on what we learned in our earlier Scanathon, where we had artists photograph objects from the collection to create 3D models. We’re interested in how our visitors might want to use these objects; taking them home is one option.

So next time you’re at the museum, stop by and check out the machine in South Court, near the store. Maybe buy yourself a little Nandi, or just watch it print for a while. And tell us what you think. We’re all learning from this one.