Serene Buddhist Art Transforms Chelsea Gallery

by Stephanie Simon, NY1's Arts, March 3, 2008

A new exhibit of Buddhist art transforms a Chelsea gallery into a contemplative space. NY1's Arts reporter Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

New York, USA -- Visitors to Chelsea’s Milk Gallery were greeted by dramatic taiko drumming and encountered a serene atmosphere in the gallery’s new exhibition, “The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito.” The exhibit shows the artwork of Shinjo Ito (1903-1989), a Japanese Buddhist master who founded the Buddhist organization Shinnyo-en, which translates as “Borderless Garden of Truth.”

His daughter Shinso Ito, now the leader of Shinnyo-en, traveled from Japan for the exhibit’s opening.

“He was a very open-minded and strong person and I thought that made him a very good artist and also a sculpture master,” said Ito.

Shinjo Ito was a self-trained artist whose devotion inspired his works. The highlight of the exhibit, which includes sculpture, engravings, calligraphy and photography, is a 16-foot-long golden reclining Buddha.

“All these Buddha images here are filled with the compassion and loving kindness of the Buddhas and I want everyone who comes to the exhibit to feel that compassion,” said Ito. “What I'm trying to do is to share the wisdom of the Buddha with everyone.”

Hiroko Sakomura helped organize the exhibit, which was first shown in Japan two years ago for Ito's centennial.

“He is Japan’s foremost 20th century master and artist and who uses the sculpture as a form of spiritual expression,” said Sakomura.

The exhibit’s layout has the spacious, contemplative feel of a Buddhist temple but is intended for all to enjoy.

“Whether you are Buddhist or not Buddhist, the people who would love to come see this exhibition are of course art lovers and also are the spiritually curious,” said Sakomura.

“The Visions and Art of Shinjo Ito” will be at the Milk Gallery through March 30, and will later travel to Chicago and Los Angeles. On every Thursday, Milk Gallery will host special related events, like sake tasting, drumming and discussions on Buddhism.