The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka

Dec 9, 2018–Jul 7, 2019

Escher GuneWardena was invited to create the environment for the first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organized by a U.S. museum. The exhibition presented 250 works representing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history drawn from LACMA’s collection as well as several domestic and international loans. The designers worked closely with curators Dr. Robert L. Brown and Dr. Tushara Bindu Gude of LACMA’s South and Southeast Asian Art Department in developing a concept for the exhibition design based on an examination of the art objects themselves, the settings in which they were found historically, and the curatorial narrative.

An approach of creating micro-architectures and populating the space with elements from ancient Sri Lankan architecture are incorporated in abstract form into the exhibition space. The column (in various forms: whole, buried, fragmented), the plinth (the dais -- a marking device for venerated objects and places), and the mandala (as a system of ordering and orienting oneself in relation to the cosmos) figure throughout the exhibition such as the 17th-18th century Wooden shutter panels from a Buddhist temple that invites one into a contemplative space. Additionally, relationships among the display elements -- axial and diagonal movement between objects as found in ancient sacred compounds -- are explored here. Placement of the granite grey monochromatic, monolithic forms suggest ruins extruded from the ground plane. A selection of significant sacred objects is accentuated by background panels in shades of saffron (a pigment derived from turmeric) often used in rituals, the marring of sacred objects, and in colouring robes of clerics in South Asia.
 Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo:
© Museum Associates/LACMA.