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Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art opens at The Dorsky Museum at the State University of New York
Nortse, (b. Lhasa, 1973), Group Photo, 2007. Chromogenic color print, ed. 7/10, 21.7 x 20.8 in. Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.
NEW PALTZ.- The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York, New Paltz is presenting Anonymous, an exhibition of contemporary Tibetan art featuring over 50 works of painting, sculpture, installation, and video art by 27 artists living in Tibet and in diaspora. Realized by guest curator Rachel Perera Weingeist, Senior Advisor to the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, the exhibition is largely drawn from the Rubins’ private collection. Many works are on view to the public for the first time, some made exclusively for the exhibition. The show will be open through December 15.

Anonymous seeks to explore the tension between an ancient culture’s unbroken artistic tradition and the personality-driven world of contemporary art. Anonymity and self-expression are commonly polarized values and artistic goals within the global art market. In traditional Tibetan art, a formal system of art production was used to support the transmission of Buddhist culture. In the present atmosphere however, art is becoming a vital medium of self-expression for Tibetans—increasingly, artists are creating work focused on the individual. A cautious 21st century visual language steeped in irony, metaphor, and allusion has fully emerged.

As Weingeist explains, “It is only roughly in the last ten years that a contemporary Tibetan visual culture has galvanized. Concepts of anonymity, authorship and self-representation are still very much in flux. By and large there is trepidation and reserved acceptance of this new introspective visual culture.” Anonymous is a petri dish for exploring these developments. A surprisingly large number of the works submitted for the exhibition—over 15 pieces—are selfportraits; remarkable for a culture with scant tradition of art expressing individuality, let alone self-representation. Dynamic juxtapositions of color and texture, life-size compositions, precise attention to detail, and a humorous use of pop culture imagery, exemplify the simultaneously intellectual and playful visual language of contemporary Tibetan art.

Video art plays a pivotal role in the exhibition, giving viewers access to rarely seen expressions of Tibetan life and culture. A curatorial panel culled works from an extended international open call for video submissions from the Tibetan community. The premise and promise of anonymity allowed for artists a more open expression and the presentation of otherwise inaccessible imagery. Together the videos not only provide a glimpse at oft-censored imagery but also exemplify the varied roles of self-expression in contemporary Tibetan culture. In addition to the contemporary display, a small selection of traditional thangka paintings provide historical context.

The inclusion of work from artists from around the globe—Dharamsala, Kathmandu, Lhasa, New York City, Oakland, Thimphu, Zurich and the Australian Outback—provides for a range of perspectives. Firmly established as well as emerging artists are featured. Benchung, Losang Gyatso, Marie-Dolma Chophel, Tsewang Tashi, Nortse, Gade, Phurba Namgay, Jhamsang, Rabkar Wangchuk, Dedron, Palden Weinreb, Tulku Jamyang, Tsering Nyandak, Karma Phuntsok, Sherab Gyaltsen, and others, including anonymous contributors, are included in the exhibition.

Anonymous serves as a catalyst for a series of public programs, artist talks, academic symposia, and educational offerings at the Dorsky and throughout the SUNY New Paltz community.



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