Monday, October 15, 2007
I’ve become so used to the idea that art is a luxury item, I almost forgot that in many contexts, it not only is integrated into everyday life, but has a role.
As Ken Johnson says in his review of “Bon: The Magic Word” at the Rubin Museum, on view through January:
“What is art for? What should it be for? What can it be for? Ask today’s art world these questions, and you’ll get a discordant babel of answers. So it is useful to check in on times and places that were not so conflicted. Consider, for example, the art of Bon, the centuries-old indigenous religion of Tibet, presented in a beautiful exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art. The purpose of Bon art was, unequivocally, to help achieve spiritual enlightenment.”
I think it would be arrogant for many artists to make work with the intention of it being useful to others. Meaningfulness and usefulness can only be a rare bonus in a context where images have become ordinary, replaceable, and above all, acquire-able.
Nevertheless it’s just nice to think that there continue to be practices where images help shape mental outlooks. Through visualization, there is internalization.
The painting here was made in 2000, anonymously. It's used in Hindu practice as a meditation tool. Once the image is in your mind, you can draw on it, recall it, both as symbol and image. A collection of these Lingas, as they are called, are on view at Feature through October 27.