Review Of "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting In Medieval Japan" By G. Levine, Y. Lippit And Y. Shimizu

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A companion to the exhibition at Japan Society, this outstanding volume consists of the catalogue raisonné of 47 Chinese and Japanese paintings and erudite essays by cocurators Levine (Univ. of California, Berkeley) and Lippit (Harvard Univ.), both pupils of Shimizu, and Martin Collcutt (Princeton Univ.). It amplifies the exhibition's laudable effort: to examine the art developed by Zen Buddhism in its proper historical and religious context. The catalog is elegantly illustrated, and the text entries, assigned to experts, show consummate scholarship. Half are by Shimizu and the rest predominantly by his pupils, including the curators. Collcutt in his essay focusing on Kenchōji in Kamakura offers a concise history of the rise and development of Zen in Japan. Lippit surveys the pantheon of notable Zen personages represented in the paintings. Levine thoughtfully sweeps away the cobweb of Zen aestheticism, which was enthusiastically configured in the last century to define the "Japaneseness" of Japanese art and to accommodate contemporary art in the West, but he does so graciously--without debunking it. Excellent bibliography and concordance of Japanese and Chinese terms. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates.


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