Dark photographs of a vanished age, vibrant colors of life on the road – the paradise of remote landscapes. Through April 2, visitors can enjoy these images presented in photographs, paintings and woodblock prints in four exhibits at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s “Landscapes of Longing: Journeys Through Memory and Place.”
UMMA’s curators have assembled a large and diverse project that gives visitors a chance to see the groundbreaking work of several artists spanning decades. Creative interpretations of travel, memory, space and time form an intriguing blend of monuments and landscapes of the Eastern world.
“Passage to Angkor,” one of the two photography exhibits, greets viewers on the first floor. Japanese photographer Kenro Izu traveled to Cambodia to capture the majesty of stone mountain temples built during the Khmer Empire in the 9th to 13th centuries. Shot in the dim light of dawn and dusk, Izu manipulates his medium to capture the essence of these ancient ruins.
By drawing viewers closer, Izu takes them inside the world caught by his lens, transporting them to past ages. The dim light emphasizes and softens the monuments’ impressive architectural details. Moving through the exhibit, Izu’s pictures unfold into crumbling structures over taken by nature. Large branches and carpets of leaves stake their claim on the ruins; the physical memory of the Khmer Empire becomes slowly erased.
Upstairs is another era. The enormously influential style of Ando Hiroshige, famously borrowed by Van Gogh, is showcased in “53 Stages of the Tokaido.” The vibrant woodblock prints represent the lives and experiences of road travelers in 19th-century Japan. Hiroshige incorporates brilliant colors that saturate his prints and give life to scenes of journeys through towns and landscapes. The surreally bright colors characterize the buildings and topography around the traveler, adding fantasy and imagination to the journey.
But Hiroshige still keeps an element of reality. Heavy snow and rain drench the travelers and their destinations, the effects of the seasons inescapable. With simple strips of pink, orange or gray across the sky, he casts another temporal dimension over the work as the travelers walk through day and night.
On such journeys, the landscape dominates, with natural features serving as more notable landmarks than buildings. Hiroshige underscores the travelers’ admiration of their surroundings as they stand amid deep blue mountains and green hills.
Landscape finds another medium in the third exhibit. “The Idyllic Retreat in Chinese Landscape Painting” displays the talents of various Chinese artists from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The works range in size from large hanging scrolls to smaller square paintings.
The final exhibit showcases the talents of contemporary Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto in “Time Exposed.” His abstract photographs fuse together sky and water. With only his camera, Sugimoto freezes the essence of these two infinites, giving the photographs weight and gravity despite their absolute stillness.
The amazing exhibit takes up nearly two floors of wall space, offering visitors a chance to explore, through an Eastern lens, themes that are universally applicable.
Landscapes of Longing
Now through April 2