I am just now getting around to processing all the photos I took on a trip to New York City last month. After riding a cruise around Manhattan, we walked over to the art district and were bowled over by the number of art galleries crammed into a block. It was late afternoon on Saturday so we did not see but a sampling of the exhibits available. Sorry, for the time being, I don’t have the names of the galleries or the artists. We barely had time to take a few pictures.
Holland Cotter, the New York Times staff art critic, published an article about the “Yoga – The Art of Transformation” exhibit at the Sackler Gallery on the DC Mall (only until January 26). He liked it:
NYTimes.comEons Before the Yoga Mat Became Trendy
The fact is, yoga was always rational, and more so in its old, extremist forms than in its present domesticated version. How else would you characterize a spiritual discipline that directly and boldly addressed life’s most intractable problem, the persistence of suffering, and took practical, but radical steps to do something about it? To alter the rules of the existential game, it redefined the possible. What’s great about the Sackler show, apart from the pleasures of its images, is that it not only lets us see the history of that practice in action, but understand how radical it was — and is — and take that seriously.
Cotter has a good eye for revealing details and incarnate contradictions, which he sprinkles throughout his article. This was not a fly-by snapshot that he fit in between New York galleries and major artists: he saw the art and let it affect him.
There was so much information saturating us during the yoga symposium that I’ve barely had an opportunity to review my notes and impressions. One of the things that came up was that several people noticed that many of the Indian temples showed figures of yoginis (female demi-gods, not the current use as female yogis) using yoga straps (yogapatta) to bind their legs in cross-legged position, leaving their knees raised off the ground. I did a quick search through the PDFs of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation catalog (page 146 for one reference) and found at least three illustrations that demonstrated using a strap to hold a seated posture:
The Freer-Sackler Gallery has put up a special page for the extraordinary catalog that they produced for the “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit currently showing in Washington, DC, through January 25, 2014. As I mentioned before, this book is a must-have for anyone seriously interested in the history and evolution of yoga into a worldwide phenomenon. I had been unable to find a dedicated page on the site before today so it must have gone up yesterday or early today.
In an exceptional gesture, the Gallery is making a substantial part of the catalog available in PDF format. The Gallery is in effect foregoing catalog sales in order to promote wider availability and access. My judgment would be to buy the book as well as getting the PDFs: Continue reading Art of Yoga Exhibit catalog now available online→
I went down to the Yoga: The Art of Transformation today and sat through the first day of the Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium. It was overwhelming to absorb the depth and sway of the panels. I also made a fast run through the exhibit at lunch hour, and after the panels were over went back for a second take. Again, just too much to take in during a visit of a few hours. Stunning, jaw-dropping, eye-opening, compelling—I am running out of superlatives.
I bought the catalog, 328 pages of color reproductions of the exhibit items, additional graphic material (200 color and black-and-white illustrations) and interpretative framework to fill the eyes, mind and soul. I am tempted to say that the book is better than the exhibit, but that would be wrong, because they inhabit different realms. The catalog can swing wide with its full-page color reproductions and authoritative essays, but the exhibit has a physicality, a presence, a gravity that leaves an impression on my senses .
Every Sunday, the Sackler Gallery’s Art in Context offers the chance to practice yoga in one of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit’s salons. You will have to register ahead of time, and the class has a cost of $15, about what you’d pay in a yoga studio. There are specialized classes for kids and seniors. If you are interested, you need to hurry because most of the slots are sold out, even into January.
Washington Post – Sackler’s ‘Art in Context’ lets participants practice yoga in the gallery
The marble jina from that first room was in Susan Levine’s head throughout the class. “It looked so relaxed, but really very aware. That’s the essence of meditation,” said Levine, who lives in Rockville. The other image she couldn’t shake: The black-and-white video of two legendary teachers, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar, that played on a screen right next to where the mats were rolled out. “It’s history looking down on you,” she said.
You can’t just throw down a mat and start doing a Sun Salutation while you’re touring the exhibit. The Smithsonian requires a certain decorum and protocol. Of course, I dont’ think a guard or monitor would stop you from slipping into Warrior II when you feel inspired.
My YTT pals are planning to visit the exhibit this Sunday, unless they chicken out with the excuse of overbooked schedules and family duties.
Washington PostAlec Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria, bring glitz to D.C. yoga gala
“And really, what could be a better way to end this stressful week in Washington than an evening celebrating the art of staying calm? The black-tie, $1,000-a ticket evening (relocated from the gallery to the Mellon because of the shutdown) celebrated the debut of the Sackler Gallery’s “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit, which opens Saturday. Because there was no time to move the gala back to the museum after the government reopened, photos of sculptures and paintings from the exhibit were shown on video screens on the wall of the dimly lighted room, which piped in soothing, dreamy music throughout the night.”
Of course, the social events revolving around the exhibit give rise to a lot of frivolous reporting about the high-profile sponsors, like Alex Baldwin and his yoga teacher wife, and the usual cliches about yoga. But that’s the price to be paid for making it to the big time. At least, Baldwin makes a show of not taking himself too seriously. The exhibit website lists dozens of events so multiple visits may be necessary to take in all the facets of the exhibit.