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Black Hat Eccentric (Review)
Review of The Black Hat Eccentric: Artistic Visions of the Tenth Karmapa, by Karl Debreczeny M. Maria Przyjemska Bonn University Karl Debreczeny; with contributions by Ian A. Alsop, David P. Jackson and Irmgard Mengele. The Black Hat Eccentric: Artistic Visions of the Tenth Karmapa. New York: Rubin Museum of Art & Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012. 320 pp., 275 color illus. $75,00 hard. ISBN 978-0-9772131-0-8. DDC: 759.9515 This ten-chapter volume was published in connection with an exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York (March 2 through July 30, 2012) curated by the main author of the book, Karl Debreczeny. However, it is much more than an exhibition catalogue; this book provides not only an outstanding selection of specimens ample enough to get acquainted with the 10th Karmapa hierarch Chöying Dorje (Chos dbyings rdo rje, 1604-1674) as an artist; it also elaborates on his tumultuous life, and as such, it is rich in historical references especially to Eastern Tibetan borderland regions. This long-awaited volume is one of the very few available monographs which focus on the activity of a single Tibetan artist. This is no coincidence, as the 10th Karmapa’s art is so individualistic that it offers a unique opportunity to discuss the place of the author in Tibetan art; all the more interesting in the case of this particularly eccentric artist, whose life was just as unconventional as his art. The first chapter by Irmgard Mengele devoted to describing Chöying Dorje’s life, basing on different autobiographical and biographical sources, is also a fairly detailed account of the Karmapa’s artistic career. What makes Mengele’s account especially fascinating is the fact that the information she selected add up to a refreshingly human presentation of the high incarnate. Unlike the baroque and hagiographic style of the typical Tibetan rnam thar, this selection of biographic events not only communicates details of the Karmapa’s private life and everyday predicaments, but even his hardships – a practice otherwise rare, notwithstanding the sinner-becomes-saint tales, since it is the adversities of an already saintly protagonist that the reader is informed about.
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apart from a pithy description of the crucial events in 1642. The 10th Karmapa’s idiosyncratic manner developed through his exploration of Tibetan.12 21:06 Actually. he never stuck by any convention. The attack of the Quoxot armies caused the Karmapa to flee into exile to the Naxi realm of Lijiang (’Jang sa tham) in the SinoTibetan borderlands. who exerted control over the young incarnate in hope of financial gain. the main rival in Central Tibet? The chapters 2-9 of The Black Hat Eccentric focus on Chöying Dorje’s artistic development and on his impact. The first chapters of the volume contain a few minor errors (factual. he argues that the artist’s stylistic radicalism may have also been a way to oppose the prevalent style of his era. where he relates on his hunger. For instance. pausing his journey to heal his wounded feet. In the 10th Karmapa’s childhood. bibliographic and translation http://www. However comprehensive the historical analysis of Chöying Dorje’s life story . For instance. Chinese and Kashmiri styles and according to his visionary experiences. the Karmapa’s art ultimately escapes all conventions. as they are known today. etc. as a tactic of removal from the difficult life situation of the artist. Adapting this personal perspective allows for a more comprehensive investigation of Chöying Dorje’s unique style. call for a more realistic presentation. the official painting style of the Central Tibetan regime. Later Chöying Dorje was separated from his guru. On his return to Lijang. but also depicts the connections between the different parts of the Tibetan cultural world and its spheres of influence like Lijiang. especially striking are the passages that relate the Karmapa’s hardships along the way to Golok. Mengele achieved this effect largely through extracting personal elements from Chöying Dorje’s autobiographic works.the circumstances of the Karmapa’s flight from Central Tibet and his return are only briefly indicated. the incarnate began a serious study of the Menri (sMan ris) style of painting. The study of Chöying Dorje’s works opens an inevitable discussion on authorship in Tibetan art. he undertook a strenuous and perilous incognito journey to the northern area of Golok (mGo log) to find the next Shamar incarnation. disorientation.Black Hat Eccentric (Review) 09. His individualism makes him one of the most original masters known to the history of Tibetan art. Even if Chöying Dorje was honored there by the local ruler. the groundbreaking feature of Chöying Dorje’s paintings and sculptures is that the artist is in the foreground in many ways. his education was withheld by a powerful local monk-ruler.not just in Mengele’s contribution. albeit he is often regarded the precursor or reviver of the Gardri (sGar bris) school of painting. 30-31. but also in the following chapters by Debreczeny .indologica. It is important in that it illustrates the cultural centers in the “artificially peripheral” areas of Eastern Tibet. Debreczeny moreover explains the Karmapa’s individual artistic idiom.de/drupal/?q=book/export/html/2186 Seite 2 von 3 . even if not particularly comprehensive. carried out by Debreczeny and his contributors with the consideration of social. 6th Shamar (Zhwa dmar. The map on pp. which contained many rural and idyllic elements and developed by way of imitating and romanticizing past styles. Thus. 1584-1630) and had to endure the great political turmoil and war of the 1640s that he barely escaped alive. does not only serve as a supplement to the biography that helps in envisioning the Karmapa’s itinerant life. falling prey to local robbers. Chöying Dorje adapted the local customs and took up family life. For Debreczeny. which read more like a travelogue of an explorer journeying through uncharted territories . the Menri school.10. All of these events present an image of an unconventional life which coined an unconventional artist. Debreczeny does not miss the political background of the Karmapa’s art. Even if encouraged by his teacher. historical and religious aspects. Indeed. Debreczeny elucidates the inconsistencies in both dating the New Gardri and discusses the inadequacies of assigning Chöying Dorje to a particular style. frequent in Tibetan historiography. presently in the Yunnan province. do the sources available mention Chöying Dorje’s invitation to visit the 5th Dalai Lama at the end of the former’s life? What about the Karmapa’s position as a favorite at the Mu court in Lijiang and at the same time. which greatly persecuted Chöying Dorje’s religious tradition as well as himself personally. In Mengele’s account.than the life story of a Tibetan saint. already several facts of Chöying Dorje’s difficult life. several important political issues concerning the Karmapa’s exiled existence remain unaddressed.
David Paul Jackson. Among the final chapters of The Black Hat Eccentric are contributions by Alsop and Jackson. it might also be of interest to future scholars to investigate the dynamics of continuity and innovation on the ground in more depth. URL: http://www. but also for historians and for those devoted to the study of Tibetan religions in their historical context. therefore. which are unavoidable in a work of this length. doctrinal and stylistic aspects. Jackson comments on how translation problems that arise when studying the Karmapa’s art may obscure the understanding of its historical. The Black Hat Eccentric: Artistic Visions of the Tenth Karmapa. and Irmgard Mengele. The Black Hat Eccentric mirrors the richness of the 10th Karmapa’s groundbreaking art and of his unusual life. Alsop proposes the attribution of authorship of statues previously understood as anonymous Yarlung art to Chöying Dorje. The work introduces several topics worthy of further investigation. Oktober. Citation: M. 2012. passed on in the Lijiang local tradition.de/drupal/?q=book/export/html/2186 Seite 3 von 3 . Indologica.Nicht-kommerziell . Maria Przyjemska steht unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung . which constitute a dialogue with earlier writings on the 10th Karmapa’s sculptures. they will not be enumerated here. Karl. Rezensionen. Review of Debreczeny.Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 3.10. http://www. Alsop.de/drupal/?q=node/2186 Bildquelle: University of Washington Press Black Hat Eccentric (Review) von M. What is more. technological.indologica.0 Unported Lizenz.indologica. it is a valuable publication not only for the scholars of Tibetan art. As such. since this local revival reveals traits known from other samples of the contemporary Buddhist revival in Eastern Tibet as a consciously constructed phenomenon.Black Hat Eccentric (Review) 09. for instance the oral histories of the famous black hat of the Karmapas pertaining to the time of Chöying Dorje.12 21:06 problems). Maria Przyjemska. Ian A.
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