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Monday, June 30, 2008

Villa Meditation

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  Are you seeking some peace and quiet after listening to fireworks blast across our horizon? If so, the VillaTerraceDecorativeArtsMuseum (2220 N. Terrace Ave.) is the place to be, particularly in July, when the RenaissanceGarden reaches its full beauty and the west-facing Mercury Court explodes with color in this 1923 Italian-Renaissance-style villa.

  From now through Sept. 14, the exhibit “Rituals & Meditations: Works by Richard Bolingbroke & Imari Bowls from the Permanent Collection” provides a perfect pairing, similar to the colorful big bangs defining our night sky… without the big bangs of course.

  Bolingbroke, a painter from San Francisco, was on-site during my review. Tall and slender, he’s a Zen kind of chap who had much to say about his numerous watercolors (ranging from 60-by-40 inches and downward). His paintings, brought to life from his studio still-life arrangements (“a ritualized space for working,” he says), are carefully constructed and wildly colorful. Orchids and lemons, cranes, koi and kimonos crowd the work, but never suffocate it. There are ample spaces left free for meditating, a discipline practiced frequently by the artist, who is a follower of Rumi, a Sufi mystic.

  The work, both quiet and energetic, finds focus from the mandellas of India, where the artist lived for five years. Lining the hall on floor two are several watercolors depicting skulls, bones and thorny limbs from black locust trees. They reference pain and the loss of friends stricken with AIDS. One such memorial, the starkly simple Circle of Life, says it all, and says it well in grayed-down tones. Rather than being maudlin, it’s hopeful.

  The Imari ware, embellished primarily in red, blue and gold, is almost incidental to this show, but the pieces are modestly displayed and don’t duel with the lush paintings. As I exited via the hallway, I passed one simple bowl, Rice Bowl, embellished with a Dutch vessel under full sail. Bound for European markets from Imari, the Japanese port that exported loads of porcelains in the mid-1600s, the tiny vessel has a tale to tell.

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