Dragon Knows Dragon (Ryu wa ryu wo shiru)

A work made of four-panel screen; aluminum flake pigment in polyvinyl acetate medium, yellow alkyd varnish, on paper.

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  • A work made of four-panel screen; aluminum flake pigment in polyvinyl acetate medium, yellow alkyd varnish, on paper.

Date:

1969

Artist:

Morita Shiryu
Japanese, 1912-1998

About this artwork

メタリック顔料で書かれた三文字は、「龍知龍」と読み、「偉大なものこそ偉大なものを知る」と意味する。

表現方法と形式において、森田子龍は革新的である。森田は、巨大な筆を用い、黒色の地の上に一気に書き上げている。森田の力強い手法は、時に、もはや文字とは見えぬまで抽象化する。この作品で龍の字は、長い尾を持ち、空を飛ぶ動物としての龍そのものを表現している。   

抽象化の概念は、東アジアの書道において何百年もの間行われてきたが、森田は、しばしば、伝統的な日本の書道と西欧の抽象美術の相互作用について著しており、ピエール・アレシンスキーやジョルジュ・マチューなどのヨーロッパ抽象表現主義の芸術家と、協同制作を行った。また米国の芸術家マーク・トビーやフランツ・クラインは、同時代の日本の書、例えば森田の作品に、影響を与え、影響を受けもした。

作品は漆を用いて制作されたかに見えるが、実際は銀色のメタリック顔料を用い、筆で黒地の紙に書いた後、黄色のニスで表面をコーティングしたものである。

Three characters brushed with metallic paint read “dragon knows dragon,” a phrase meaning “to recognize greatness is greatness.”

In terms of style and format, Morita Shiryu’s works are groundbreaking. Here the artist used an extremely large brush, working quickly across the black surface. Morita’s vigorous style often results in nearly abstract forms that no longer appear to be words. In this work, the character for dragon becomes more expressive of the actual animal with a long, sinewy tail flying through the air.

The notion of abstraction had been part of the practice of East Asian calligraphy for many centuries, and Morita wrote often about the interplay between traditional Japanese calligraphy and abstract art in the West. He collaborated with European artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement such as Pierre Alechinsky and Georges Mathieu, and American artists Mark Tobey and Franz Kline influenced and were influenced by contemporary Japanese calligraphy such as Morita’s works.

Though the work may appear to be executed with lacquer, in actuality the metallic paint—which is silver in tone—was brushed onto black paper and then covered with a coat of yellow varnish.

Currently Off View

Asian Art

Artist

Shiryu Morita

Title

Dragon Knows Dragon (Ryu wa ryu wo shiru)

Origin

Japan

Date

1964–1974

Medium

Four-panel screen; aluminum flake pigment in polyvinyl acetate medium, yellow alkyd varnish, on paper

Dimensions

162 x 307 cm (63 3/4 x 120 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Fisher

Reference Number

1981.364

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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