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Long Strange JourneyOn Modern Zen, Zen Art, and Other Predicaments$
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Gregory P. A. Levine

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824858056

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.001.0001

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The Look and Logos of Zen Art

The Look and Logos of Zen Art

Chapter:
(p.75) 4 The Look and Logos of Zen Art
Source:
Long Strange Journey
Author(s):

Gregory P. A. Levine

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.003.0005

What makes art “Zen” and Zen art “Art”? From where and when does it arise: Southern Song dynasty China (1127-1279), Muromachi period Japan (1333-1573), London in the 1920s, Manhattan or Japan in the 1950s and 1960s? How do we describe Zen art—including heirloom works such as Muqi Fachang’s Six Persimmons or the contemporary artist Murakami Takashi’s Daruma works—and why do we build description around particular religious terms, such as mushin, and seemingly timeless aesthetic qualities such as simplicity, spontaneity, abbreviation, monochromatic, abstraction, nothingness, and so forth? How do terms and sensibilities come to be normalized, and what sorts of Zen art might they exclude or repress, and why? What should we make of Hisamatsu Shin’ichi’s “Seven Characteristics of Zen art”? Why are the arts of Japan so often described as inherently or entirely informed by Zen? Beginning with writings from Zen campaigners and art historians in the 1920s, this chapter follows the lexical journey of Zen and Zen art, aesthetics to the present and suggests the discursive and ideological energies that propelled them toward the status of global “givens.”

Keywords:   Hisamatsu Shin’ichi, Muqi Fachang, Murakami Takashi, mushin, Six Persimmons

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