Gregory Levine – Captured Buddha: Kawabata Ryūshi’s Rakuyō Kōryaku

12 to 2pm – Art Lecture – Dr. Gregory Levine, Associate Professor, Art History Department, University of California at Berkeley

In this lecture, Dr.Gregory Levine wants to take up the multiple, potentially vexing ambitions and dilemmas of picturing in the Japanese Nihonga painter Kawabata Ryūshi’s (1886-1966) monumental work, The Capture of Luoyang (Rakuyō Kōryaku), 1944; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo).

Levine’s thoughts depend upon the circumstances, scenographies, and expressive intensities of Japanese war propaganda painting of the 1930s-1940s, but he will turn from the shock-and-awe of many such paintings toward this particular painting’s elision of explicit violence, its possible elegiac tone, and the significance of its representation of the Fengxian Temple icon of Vairocana at the Chinese Buddhist grottoes at Longmen.

The question of empire has to be dealt with here, but rather than fixing Kawabata’s intentions, complicity, or the politics of his particular formulation of Nihonga, Levine shall touch upon the narratives and representations of Japanese colonial scholarship of Chinese Buddhist sites, beginning in the late 19th century, and the deployment of such sites in painting and photography as a trope of Japanese empire and pan-Asianist ideology. The exhibition of Kawabata’s painting in 1945, meanwhile, may turn us to confront the viewing of art in aftermath, and picturing’s resistance to simple historical narrative.

Asato Ikeda, Visiting Professor, University of Victoria, PhD, Art History, UBC (2012): Respondent

Sponsors: Art History and Asian Studies