Stefano Arienti: The Asian Shore is an evocative installation by leading mid-career Italian artist and 2004 Gardner Museum Artist-in-Residence, Stefano Arienti. Inspired by one of Arienti's (and Isabella Stewart Gardner's) great passions and influences, the art of Asia, The Asian Shore presents new work by the artist: drawings inspired by archival photographs of the Gardner's Chinese Room and a range of rugs dyed to expose underlying patterns, alongside a set of rarely viewed 17th century Japanese doors (fusuma) from the Gardner collection.
Arienti positions these objects in a way to engage viewers in an intimate and sensual encounter with art, transforming the gallery into a meditative, zen-like space, much as Isabella Gardner did when she created and installed her Chinese Room. Upon entering the gallery, visitors will be encouraged to remove their shoes and to sit on the rugs to meditate or contemplate with the space.
"The Asian Shore is a work about discovery, about making visible things that have been forgotten or are rarely seen," says Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gardner Museum and director of the museum's renowned Artist-in-Residence program, which brought Arienti to live and work at the Gardner in 2004. "Stefano has as profound an interest in studying and researching Asian cultures as he has in making work about it. The Asian Shore is a meditative journey, an exploration of drawing, of the museum's Asian collection, and of Isabella Gardner and her own sense of space and time."
Stefano Arienti works with found images and printed materials. He transforms his source material through minimal gestures that he often repeats systematically, almost obsessively. In this exhibition, the artist experiments with new and unusual drawing techniques (burning, erasing or tracing photographic images and photocopies of those images) using printouts of archival photographs from the museum's Chinese Room.
"Arienti gives new life to things past," adds Cavalchini. Similarly, the rugs that he has dyed elicit unseen patterns, which reveal something about how they were made. Finally, Arienti borrows a pair of Japanese fusuma from the collection and chooses to show their reverse side, painted with bamboo and never before on public view.