Sun, 06 Feb 2000

Exhibition a bridge for Indonesia-U.S. cultural ties

JAKARTA (JP): The language of the arts is universal. It has no social, political and cultural boundaries.

The current exhibition of American contemporary art, displayed at Cipta Gallery II, Taman Ismail Marzuki Arts Center in Jakarta, is a cultural diplomacy between Indonesia and the United States.

Opened by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri last Wednesday, the painting exhibition is held to commemorate the 50th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries which started in l949.

Jointly held by the United States Embassy, Taman Ismail Marzuki, and Mobil Oil Indonesia, the exhibition entitled The Outward Bound: American Art at the Brink of the Twenty-First Century represents the most contemporary American fine arts.

Sulebar Sukarman, chairman of the Jakarta Art Council, explained that this is a rare opportunity for Indonesian artists and art lovers to see an important painting exhibition by American artists.

The exhibition, curated by Nancy Matthews, William Dunlap and Pamela Maslansky, displays 83 works by 78 American painters including the famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Jim Dine, Chuck Close, Dorothy Fall and Leonard Baskin.

Curator Nancy Matthews from the Meridian International Center explained prior to the opening ceremony that the exhibition is aimed at displaying the wide selection of excellent works done by contemporary American artists of diverse ages and cultural backgrounds.

"The United States of America is a multi-cultural country. It is home to people from around the world. Its art works also manifest the plurality of its society," she conceded.

In the l950s, American contemporary art was centered in New York and other big cities like Los Angeles, she said.

Today, New York remains the commercial center for American art activities, yet it is impossible to speak of a single creative artistic center. Art is being produced with as much vigor and ambition in Dallas, Seattle, Chicago and Miami as it is in New York and Los Angeles.

The exhibition, she explained, is not intended to define late twentieth-century American art, nor to present a roster of the best-known artists in New York.

"Rather, we approached this daunting task with the same intent that guided our selections for the earlier exhibition, that is, to take a visual sampling and to capture a moment in time," Matthew added.

It took a year for the curators to select works of American artists to include in this traveling exhibition, which tours Hanoi, Shanghai, Beijing, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore and several other Asian cities.

"Most displayed works capture not only American scenery but the American scene. There is no single style or prevailing point of view. All of the artists provide a distinct and credible commentary on their time," explained Matthews while touring the exhibition room.

Contemporary art works may appear less strange to many Indonesian and Asian art lovers because they are quite familiar with the idioms of American culture.

Audiences in Asia, she said, are unlikely to experience the feeling of alienation that might come with exposure to a new art form.

Elvis by the Tennessee-born artist Red Grooms depicts the familiar pop culture icon Elvis Presley.

Chuck Close's Roy, a portrait of the late Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, will be readily accessible because of its photographic realism.

Roy Lichtenstein's Landscape with Boats shows the influence of Chinese landscape painting and American comic drawing which formed the root of most Lichtenstein's art.

All in all, the exhibition, which will run for 40 days from Feb. 3 through early April, may foster better understanding among artists and the people of Indonesia and America. (raw)