Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Art for Peace at YBCA

from the San Jose Mercury News:

Expressions of peace
By Sara Wykes
for the Mercury News
published: December 11, 2007

Peace is one of those ideas with as many definitions as there are people in the world. The Dalai Lama - the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whose official title includes such powerful honorifics as "Ocean of Wisdom" - has symbolized the hope of peace for millions. And in this one man, who wears glasses and utilitarian shoes, lies a world of possibilities.

"The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama," an exhibit of work by 88 artists from 25 countries, offers a symphony of images voiced by a full orchestra of aesthetic instruments riffing on the powerful life force of this religious leader.

This is not an exhibit to be rushed through like a cafeteria line. Within the high-ceilinged spaces of the first-floor galleries at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the paintings, photographs, sculpture and multimedia installations furnish long moments for meditation on the surprising ways the artists responded to the exhibit's organizing themes.

"Why do thousands go to hear him?" said Darlene Markovich, president of the Committee of 100 for Tibet and executive director of the show. "What is the message? How can art help to amplify that message?

Several artists in the "Missing Peace" exhibit are from the Bay Area - one of the show's most popular works was created by David and Hi-Jin Hodge of Half Moon Bay. The couple asked more than 100 people to talk about change. The process would stop, the couple agreed, when their subjects began to duplicate one another. But that never happened. And when technical problems led the Hodges to use iPods with video screens to display the many mini-films, this practical choice provided an appropriate visual wallop for our gadget-culture weary eyes.

The show is structured in sections that begin with work focused on the Dalai Lama himself. Here are photographs by Richard Avedon, Chuck Close and Sylvie Fleury. Bill Viola's video documents a blessing from the Dalai Lama so all can share in it.

A group of images focuses on Tibet and its people. One large canvas - it measures 6 1/2 feet by 10 feet - is titled "Brief History of Tibet" and its brilliant colors and intertwined images tell a story in striking fashion.

Another part of the exhibit springs from the artists' response to the basic beliefs of Buddhism, and visitors are guided through the works with a series of "lessons" from the Dalai Lama. "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion," or "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

The exhibition has expanded exponentially beyond its original parameters. Its Web site ( includes an educational curriculum, a virtual tour and a wall of visitor responses. In development is an electronic gallery of work done by anyone who wants to participate by finding visual ways to express peace. Each answer will become part of a mosaic that can be accessed in a variety of electronic ways.

The works were originally intended to be auctioned off or to be sold as a group for permanent installation in a museum, but that future seems to be evolving, too. Just as the original idea for the exhibit changed in unexpected ways, it's impossible to predict just how the exhibit will end - or if it ever will, Markovich said. "You must let go of what you think you want to happen and something much more wonderful could happen."

Through March 16th at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. at Third Street, San Francisco.

rest of the story here

images from YBCA web site: Marina Abramovic, Binh Danh, Squeak Carnwath

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