TIBETAN ARTISTS TRANSFORMED: Gonkar Gyatso & Losang Gyatso at The Rubin Museum

"Gonyar Gyatso's photographic series My Identity is emblematic of the artist´s major ideological shifts across national, political and stylistic borders that constitute “Tibet.” The series portrays a thangka painter at work, seated before a canvas looking out at the viewer, but each time the context is radically different." The series is in
Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond at the The Rubin Museum of Art through October 18.

My Identity No. 1, 2003

The first image of four depicts Gyatso dressed in a traditional Tibetan robe drawing a devotional Buddha figure.

My Identity No. 2, 2003

In the second image Gyatso is dressed as a Communist Chinese painter rendering an image of Mao Tse-Tung.

My Identity No. 3, 2003

In the third image Gyatso is dressed as a contemporary refugee artist painting the Potala Palace, chief residence of the Dalai Lama before he fled to Dharamsala.

My Identity No. 4, 2003

The fourth image shows the contemporary Gyatso sitting in a modern flat in the act of creating abstract art. Photographs (c) Gonkar Gyatso /All Rights Reserved

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Gonkar Gyatso was born in 1961 in Lhasa, Tibet. After he studied fine art in Beijing, in the early ´80s he returned to Lhasa where he came into contact with the Dalai Lama’s speeches. These led him to question the truthfulness of the history he was taught as the son of governmental officers and he became acquainted with Tibetan Buddhism. He later went on a self-imposed refugee in Dharamsala, center of the Dalai Lama's Tibetan government in exile, and finally emigrated to London, where he currently lives and works.

Gyatso's art has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, including in China, India, Scotland, The Netherlands, and the United States. Works by Gyatso are held in such institutions as the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Australia, the Burger Collection in Switzerland, the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, and the Newark Museum in New Jersey, as well as in numerous private collections.

Having lived throughout Asia and in the West, Gyatso's art proposes insightful statements on the cultural hybridism of globalization as well as the sea changes yet to come. (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary)

Losang Gyatso was born in Tibet "when one could walk around Lhasa without running into a single Chinese" and grew up mainly in Britain, where he attended secondary schools during the era of the Beatles and Vietnam, the moon landing and Vietnam. Returning to a Tibetan refugee community in India, he studied Tibetan painting for two years, before arriving in the United States in 1974. He studied advertising in San Francisco, and then worked as a Creative Director for major ad agencies in New York City in the 80s and early 90s.

Losang Gyatso played a major role as the Lord Chamberlain Phala in Martin Scorsese's film, "Kundun", about the life of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Clearlight Tara by Losang Gyatso
The Rubin Museum of Art

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I knew contemporary artist Losang Gyatso for many years when he was one NYC's top advertising executives, winning awards like the Clio's, Addy's and the One show. He was the first to successfully sign and direct Whitney Houston in major commercials for Coca Cola. He began making artwork around 1990 and over the years has also designed several books on Tibet, created identity logos for Tibetan organizations such as International Campaign for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Tibet Fund, and opened Tibetan restaurants in San Francisco and New York City, as well as playing a major role in Martin Scorsese's movie Kundun!

In an effort to create a network for Tibetan artists, Losang founded a website and is the current Director of the Mechak Center for Contemporary Tibetan Art, which includes artist inside and outside of Tibet. He has exhibited widely in the US and Europe, and lives outside Washington D.C.

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Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond marks the first exhibition of contemporary Tibetan art in a New York City museum. The nine Tibetan artists featured in the Rubin Museum exhibition each explore contemporary issues--personal, political, and cultural--by integrating the centuries-old traditional imagery, techniques, and materials found in Tibetan Buddhist art with modern influences and media. Tradition Transformed represents the unique position of this groundbreaking generation of Tibetan artists that includes Gonkar Gyatso, Tenzing Rigdol, Losang Gyatso, and Dedron. Several of the artists were born in Tibet while others come from Nepal or one of the large Tibetan settlements in India. Three continue to work in their Himalayan homelands, though the majority have emigrated to Europe and the United States. All have benefited from the possibilities of technology, travel, and personal artistic freedom, which inform their individual responses to the complex interaction between the traditional and the modern in both art and culture.

June 11, 2010 - October 18, 2010
Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond

The Rubin Museum of Art


Mona Diane Conner said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, for this wonderful review of a fascinating show. I'll have to go see it!

-K- said...

This is something more than "art" and certainly more than politics.

Bruce Barone said...

As a photographer/artist I find Gonkar's project so fascinating. What a smart idea and perfectly executed.

As a student of Art History I find Losang's work very interesting, captivating and beautiful. I love his quote. I am reminded of the poems of Gary Snyder.

Karena said...

Fascinating body of work, loved reading of Losang.

Art by Karena