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NOW EXTENDED: I am Content With What I Lack - The Poetics of Japanese Gardens

  • 4411 Montrose 4411 Montrose Blvd Houston, TX, 77006 United States (map)

Owing to popular demand, I am Content with What I Lack has been extended and will be on view at 4411 Montrose THROUGH SEPTEMBER 26, 2015!

The phrase "ware tada taru (wo) shiru (I am content with what I lack)” is inscribed on a stone water basin (tsukubai) in the gardens of Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto. While the function of the basin facilitates the ritual act of purification, the evocative expression reinforces Zen Buddhist philosophy regarding humility and emptiness. Monks would meditate upon the basin’s message and find solace in their practice. This single garden element encapsulates the primary role of a Japanese garden: to provide a place of solitude and transcendence from the mundane world.

The history of the Japanese Garden began from the first sacred spaces created for the veneration of Shinto deities, recreations of Buddhist paradise, and suggestions of Taoist immortal realms. Continuously attempting to capture the sublime with natural elements, gardens from the 5th century onward have been recorded as places where selected forms of nature were composed within a manipulated, intellectually imposed enclosure. Distinct garden types emerged; the pond strolling garden (chisen kaiyu teien), the courtyard garden (tsubo niwa), and the dry landscape garden (kare sansui), to name a few. Techniques and terminology such as asymmetrical placement (suchigaete) or stepping stones (tobi ishi, lit. flying stones) similarly developed to attempt capture the inner essences of landscape elements.

The famous garden at Entsu-ji Temple in Kyoto, is the example of an Edo period dry landscape garden composed with the shakkei (borrowed scenery) technique. The garden includes a distant view of Mount Hiei in its overall composition. The grand panorama is drawn into the intimate garden through a series of framing devices: deliberately placed tall-trunked Japanese cedars and white cypresses, horizontally composed rock formations, and a blanket of thick green moss. This 17th century garden serves as the main inspiration for this inaugural JASH exhibition, as well as the ultimate garden vision to create an immersive experience with minimal suggestion.

Under the creative direction of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Asian Art Curator Christine Starkman, the exhibition will feature works by three artists and a landscape architect, all from Houston.


  • Keiji Asakura, Japanese Garden Design, 2015

  • Terry Hagiwara, Tea Bowls, 2005-Present, stoneware with glaze

  • Masaru Takiguchi, Night Ocean, 1995, Brazilian black granite

  • Mari Omori, akari/paper lantern, 2009, mino washi paper, archival paste, metal, and lighting fixture

A public opening reception will be held on Friday, September 11, 2015 from 6-8pm. 

Admission is free. 

Gallery hours are:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11:30am - 5:30pm.
JASH gratefully acknowledges support for this exhibition by Asakura Robinson, HLS, Dr. John Stroehlein and Mrs. Miwa Sakashita, Dr. and Mrs. Barry Samuels, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Gondo, and Nippon Restaurant.