Embracing Imperfection: Contemporary Expressions of Wabi Sabi

Exhibition Website

Jan 21 2017 - Apr 30 2017

Napa Valley Museum

Yountville, CA

Embracing Imperfection: Contemporary Expressions of Wabi Sabi is an exhibition that explores the practices of contemporary artists Adam Chapman, Jim Melchert, Leah Rosenberg, and Tokihiro Sato through the lens of the traditional Japanese aesthetic and philosophy of Wabi Sabi.

If you ask a Japanese person to define wabi sabi, he or she might slowly, silently shake their head or respond by saying, “It’s the Japanese heart” or “It’s in our soul.” Language is infamously limited in conveying what is best described as an aesthetic way of perceiving the world and, yet, words and their thought structures are all we have to try to discuss it with one another. Unless, of course, we are all steeped in the mindset of Zen Buddhism since wabi sabi and Zen are inextricably linked.

Zen, first introduced to Japan in the 12th century via China and originating in India, stresses direct, intuitive insight into the transcendental truth beyond all intellectual concepts. It’s stridently anti-rational and its essential knowledge over the years has been transmitted mind to mind, not through language. One of its key concepts is that things are either dissolving into or emerging from nothingness. In Zen terms, nothingness isn’t the Western notion of an empty void, but rather a place of infinitely creative potential. This vital continuum can be understood only through intuition and wabi sabi is the attitude through which intuition can be sparked.

Because a clear definition of wabi sabi is avoided, experience through sensory perception is the way to begin to grasp it. [....]

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Contemporary
  • Adam Chapman
  • Jim Melchert
  • Leah Rosenberg
  • Tokihiro Sato

Exhibition Venues & Dates