Jo Raku Ga Jo

Today I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most inspiring and moving art exhibits I've ever seen. I haven't been this enlightened at an art show, in fact, since I went to see the collection of original drawings and woodblock prints of Hokusai Katsushika.

Currently on display at The Illuminating Company is the Buddhist artwork of Ito Shinjo, (伊藤 真乗) in a wonderful exhibition called "The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito." The elegant and artfully-displayed exhibit is free to the public and features Ito-sama's amazing and beautiful works created in devotion to his Buddhist faith. The collection features a variety of the artist's incredible sculptures as well as some of his prints, calligraphy and even photographs. Sculpture is the primary focus of the exhibit and the works include an assemblage of very moving images of Buddhist deities, including a 10-foot Parinrivana statue. His other sculptures are equally-impressive, depicting the people who were very close to him or had great influence in his life. Art-goers can also watch a well-made documentary about Ito Shinjo's life featuring his daughter, Ito Shinso, who is now head of the Shinnyo-en Order.

Ito Shinjo (1906-1989) was born in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, to parents of deep faith, and was dedicated to participation in family traditions. As a young man, Ito-sama got married and worked as an aerospace engineer for many years until, without any formal training, he started creating art in the 1930's just after the death of his two sons. Intensely-inspired by the Buddhist traditions of his family and the teachings of the Shingon monks with whom he studied, he, along with his wife Tomoji, went on to found the Buddhist Order-- Shinnyo-en. The basic principles of Shinnyo-en were about making esoteric Buddhism accessible to regular, everyday people. The name, itself, can be loosely translated into English as Garden ("en") of Ultimate Reality ("Shinnyo").

I wish that everyone who might find meaning and contentment from this awesome experience could see this exhibit. Sadly, it will close forever at 17:00 tomorrow. Should you feel inspired to take time off from your busy schedule to see it, as I did today, The Illuminating Company is located at 19 East 21st St. in Chicago. (312) 326-9500.

The title of this post represents a favourite concept of Ito-sama and can be translated as "Permanence, Bliss, Self and Purity."

The official website for The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito is here:

1 comment:

Cyrano said...

I actually went there in LA, and I am happy to hear you enjoyed the experience. He is a great master for many including myself. Oh, I google "Jo Raku Ga Jo", and this is how I bump into your blog...

Enjoy and best,