Rattan Meets High Art at New Met Exhibit
By Kiratiana Freelon on February 25, 2013 4:01pm
UPPER EAST SIDE — In one room, the floating Buddha's robes are tinged with red.
Nearby, a menacing morning glory lurks, its petals spread open like a trap.
And in still another room, a heart hangs with some heaviness, a tribute to the generosity of an ancient king.
These are just some of the sculptures by Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Pich is being featured in a new, 10-piece exhibition examining his work with his homeland's rattan — which includes a massive Buddha, a sprawling flower and a study of shape simply called "Curve."
One of the works was so big it wouldn't fit in the typical elevator at the museum, said John Guy, curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia at the Met.
"They had to bring it through the front door — on Fifth Avenue," Guy said.
The exhibition, which began on Feb. 23 and runs through July 7, presents a unique combination of classic artistic techniques and jungle fibers, as well as some found objects, Guy said.
This juxtaposition of classical technical approaches and uncommon materials reflects Pich's background, Guy said. The artist grew up during Khmer Rouge's reign of terror in the late 1970s before immigrating to the U.S., where he eventually got his M.F.A. in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 2002, Pich returned to Cambodia, where he works today.
"That was the catalyst, really, for switching from painting to sculpture," Guy said.
Still, Pich's works rely heavily on two-dimensional details such as woven-like textures and selectively chosen colors.
"I see them as more graphic works than structural works," Guy said.
"Cambodian Rattan" is just one of several new shows at the Met. For more information visit metmuseum.org.