CONFUCIUS: His Life and Legacy in Art
February 11 – June 13, 2010
China Institute Gallery
125 East 65th Street, New York
February 16, 2010. Growing up, I didn't have much time for Confucius. Among the prominent Asian philosophers, he took second place to Lao Tzu and Taosim, and for obvious reasons. Taoism seemed more laissez-faire, less involved with propriety and property. It embraced a certain ease and modesty, a harmonious accommodation with nature. There was a nonchalance that sat well with my hipster, slacker ideal of "there's a road we're all on, man, but it really leads nowhere except right back to where we all started from, so don't get me uptight, just chill and pass that j."
My rebellious, reductivist streak left no room for the conventional wisdom of the Confucian status quo, for its apotheosis of family, for using the correct ritual and sacrifice on every occasion, for a strict legal code that could deaden spontaneity. I had dabbled in the Analects, and these dialogs were obviously "wise", but my lingering suspicion was that they were wise in the wrong way. There was no escaping their prim orientation towards duty and decorum.