BUT, I also hold with the idea that we don't put forth every ridiculous and unartistic effort as examples of artistry. And this is precisely what is happening with these silly exhibits.
Hear, hear. There are fundamental differences between the art of Ando Hiroshige and the art of JMW Turner (I choose those two for comparison as they are contemporaries and because I collect Japanese woodblock prints and my wife collects English landscape artworks), that demonstrate ably the gap between the two cultures. One is regarded as the peak of Ukiyo-e, in an artistic direction that values quietude, introspection and minimalist representation. The other represents the heights of achievement in Europe, well ahead of the French Impressionist school, of the Western fascination with meticulous, mechanical representation of perspective, form and light.
One is allegorical and spiritualist; the other is explicit and rationalist.
An exhibition where those two were displayed side by side would be disappointing, to my mind. To do so would highlight for me the issue at hand: We are trying to meld very dissimilar styles of artistry together. They are too different to warrant comparison.
Taking that concept further, with more modernistic work, is even more likely to disappoint. The juxtaposition is not only shocking, but discordant, as we have seen recently, in the experiment with abstract work that the Weyerhauser display dabbled in. Simply unworkable.
I guess I may be a little more traditionalist than some but my assessment of whether something is art is not whether it evokes emotion but whether it evokes pleasant emotion. In short, the repeated attempts to combine bonsai with Western, often abstract, paintings is stillborn because it flies counter to each art's propensity to instil emotion in the viewer. The conflict of emotions unsettles, rather than informs, the audience. There may be a school to whom that appeals, but it is always going to elicit disagreement from a large proportion of the informed public.
Attempting to legitimise poor art, whether bonsai or painting, by attempting to capitalise on the cachet of the other, merely cheapens both.
On the other hand, displaying bonsai with scrolls and artwork in a tokonoma is legitimate, as the tokonoma is also used to display suiseki, ikebana, ukiyo-e, pottery, carvings and calligraphy, at different times of the year. It is a gallery space that relies on context and balance to evoke the appropriate response from the viewer. For most, if not all, of us it works... perhaps because we associate the contextual references immediately with each other; perhaps because a thousand years of experimentation uncovered and refined what works best.