ColorTherapy: The Asia Society

ColorTherapy: The Asia Society

Mark Chamberlain
May 6, 2008

Okumaura Masanobu, "Large Perspective Picture of a Second-floor Parlor in the New Yoshiwara, Looking Toward the Embankment," ca. 1745
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I love tripping over unexpected sources of inspiration. My latest was Designed For Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings at the Asia Society

We dropped in on a lark to look at Japanese prints, and the exhibition was beautiful and informative. But the reason I'll mention it here is the way the exhibition was installed. Not only did the galleries provide a rejection of the typical "white box," but the walls were painted in colors that I don't normally associate with the Orient. I have a few installation views to illustrate what I mean.

Pink is tricky, but here it's evocative. Combined with the trim, this space is soft, sensual and slightly feminine without being girly. One sees more and more color on the walls of what used to be completely neutral white walls in galleries and museums. Color is seductive and pulls you into the work displayed.

Kitagawa Utamaro, "Women Gathering for a Tooth-Blackening Ceremony."

Everyone knows how much I love grey, and I never expected it to be so handsome in an art gallery. If our pink is feminine, then this is masculine without being obnoxious. It matches these prints by Utamaro (a personal favorite) toe to toe. The color looks like it's been lifted out of a woodblock print.


Utagawa Kuniyoshi, "Benkei and Yoshitsune at the Battle of Dannoura."

Here it is again, my Butterfield-8 Blue, though this time it has nothing to do with Elizabeth Taylor in the 50s.

Purple's tricky too, but here Plum and gold make a regal combination that doesn't look like playschool, and doesn't feel like the West. This, too, dovetails with my interest in "bruise colors" and bridges the gap between us and another place and time.


Katsushika Hokusai, "Chinese Boys Watching Tigers cross a River."

Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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