Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Wisdom Quarterly;; Dr. Jeff Durham San Francisco Asian Art Museum
Meditation is gaining popularity as a tool to de-clutter the mind and go from noise, stress, and chaos to peace, empowerment, and wellness. Learn to create positive attitudes and responses to situations by understanding universal spiritual principles through the simple, practical guidance of the ancient art of Raja Yoga meditation (Brahma Kumaris). More
Yogi and tantrika (Boonlieng)
SAN FRANCISCO, California - The Asian Art Museum presents Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the first major art exhibition to explore yoga and its historical transformation over the past 2,500 years through more than 130 rare and compelling artworks.

All over the world, millions of people practice yoga to find spiritual insight and improved health. Many are aware of yoga's origins in India, but few outside of advanced practitioner circles recognize yoga's profound philosophical underpinnings, its presence within Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, and Sufi religious traditions, or the surprisingly various social roles played by yogic practitioners over the centuries.

This exhibition shows yoga’s rich diversity and rising appeal from its early days to its emergence on the global stage. Borrowing from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe, and the U.S., the artworks on view date from the 2nd to the 20th centuries, with a majority from the 8th to 18th centuries.

The wisdom of the Vedas from the ancient Vedic civilization is incorporated into Hinduism's Ayurvedic principles of healing herbs, foods, and dietary practices (Kitchen Pharmacy).

Throughout the exhibition, stunning examples of sculpture and painting illuminate yoga's key concepts as well as its obscured histories. Early photographs, books, and films show yogis not only as peaceful practitioners, but also satirized as sly imposters.

Artworks and audio guides also reveal yoga’s transformation in 20th-century India and the U.S. as an inclusive practice open to all.

The exhibition’s highlights include an installation that reunites three stone yoginis from a 10th century South Indian temple; 10 pages from the first illustrated book of yogic postures (asanas) from around 1600; and a film by Thomas Edison, "Hindoo Fakir" (1902), the first American movie ever produced about India.

Curated originally for the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery by the associate curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, Debra Diamond, the Asian Art Museum’s presentation is organized by the museum’s associate curator of South Asian Art, Qamar Adamjee, and assistant curator of Himalayan Art, Jeff Durham [who will be in Pasadena on Saturday talking about mandalas in Vajrayana Buddhism]. 

Classical Buddhist art (WQ/Boonlieng/SFAAM)
“We are honored to serve as the only West Coast venue in presenting this historic exhibition, one of the most remarkable surveys of Indian art,” said Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu.

“We hope that by illuminating aspects of yoga and its hidden histories to Bay Area audiences, visitors can take new perspectives to their present and future yoga practices.” 

The exhibition surveys the centrality of yoga in Indian culture and focuses on core elements of yoga practice; the role of teachers; the importance of place in yoga practice; the associations between yoga and power; ways in which yogis have been understood and imagined in Indian and Western popular cultures; and the transformation of yoga into today’s contemporary practice.

Kathak Yoga: dynamic footwork and dance as a means to union of breath, body, and mind.
Visitors are encouraged to start their journey in Osher Gallery, followed by Hambrecht Gallery, then Lee Gallery. 
  • Osher Gallery: The Path of Yoga - The exhibition begins by introducing visitors to yoga’s origins. Between 500 and 200 BCE, wandering ascetics of the [Vedic Brahminical] Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions developed practices for controlling the body and breath as a means of stilling the mind.
These practices introduced concepts that laid the groundwork for much of what later came to constitute "yoga." By the 7th century, many of yoga’s key concepts, vocabulary, and practices were established. This gallery reveals how artists translated yogic identities, beliefs, and practices into meaningful and eloquent visual forms.

In yoga, the body is both what must be transcended as well as the necessary tool for attaining enlightenment... More

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