How Zen Painters Sought to Transcend the Fantastical Concerns and Constraints of the Modern World around Them

"None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection" will be on view from March 8 to June 16, 2024 at Japan Society Gallery. Spanning over 400 years, the exhibition examines the origins of Zen Buddhism through the contributions of Buddhist painter-monks, whose ink paintings and calligraphies have helped to define this fascinating religious and artistic tradition.


Yamaoka Tesshū, Talismanic Dragon, 19th century, hanging scroll, ink on paper.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Gitter-Yelen Collection

None Whatsoever features masterworks of Zenga-style Japanese paintings drawn from the collection of New Orleans-based Kurt Gitter and Alice Yelen Gitter, renowned as one of the most important collections of Zen Buddhist art in the world. The term “Zenga,” meaning “Zen Painting,” designates paintings and calligraphies created primarily by Japanese monk painters from the Edo period (1615–1868) through the modern era. Playful, bold, and gestural, Zenga are often characterized by monochromatic, relatively simple designs, in contrast to other types of Buddhist painting, which are known for highly detailed compositions, bright colors, supernatural deities, and complicated cosmic diagrams.

The exhibition builds on Japan Society Gallery’s history of exhibitions and programs exploring Zen Buddhist artwork and concepts, including Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan (2007), The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin (2010) and its most recent exhibition Out of Bounds: Japanese Women Artists in Fluxus (2023-2024). In conjunction with the exhibition, visitors will also be invited to engage with Zen Buddhist practices through wide-ranging public programming, from in-gallery meditation sessions to calligraphy workshops and tea ceremony demonstrations.

None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection

DateMarch 8 to June 16, 2024
Time12:00~19:00 (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
VenueJapan Society Gallery 
Fee12USD for General, 10USD for Seniors and Students