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Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering short reviews of exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

1 November 2010
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Setsu Asakura: An Avant-garde Girl
10 September - 7 November 2010
BankART Studio NYK
Known both in Japan and abroad for her theater set designs, Asakura is 88 years old and still going strong. This exhibition, which fills the cavernous former shipping warehouse occupied by BankART on the Yokohama waterfront, is massive, yet consists mostly of half-size scale models or very large photographs of her sets, as well as videos, sketches and so on. The scale and presentation of the show resemble that of an architectural exhibition.

Sumidagawa - The Beloved River of Edo

22 September - 14 November 2010
Edo-Tokyo Museum
The main commercial artery of old Edo, the Sumida River is the theme of 160 works on display here, ranging from Edo-era folding screens to early-Showa woodblock prints. The river appears frequently in noted ukiyoe series like Hokusai's "Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji" and Hiroshige's "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo," but pride of place goes to Hashimoto Sadahide's masterpiece (featured on the exhibition poster) "Summer Scene of Ryogoku Bridge." The thousands of fireworks-viewers crowding the bridge in Hashimoto's panorama look like so many grains of rice.
Miwako Iga: Truly Sad Toys - The Open Secret
1 October - 10 November 2010
Base Gallery
This new series by photographic artist Iga has a noticeably different flavor from her previous works, which revealed a cynical, even spiteful view of social institutions like "home" and "marriage," which she depicted in narrative set pieces. "Truly Sad Toys" makes use of toy dolls in bizarre situations, but the malicious aspect fades into the background. Bathed in a soft light, the doll images exude an air of tranquil autonomy.
Flatland: the power of painting

5 October - 7 November 2010

Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery
Showcasing artists of the "oughts" generation, this exhibition examines painting from diverse angles -- comparisons between modernism and contemporary art, the new genres of Internet imagery and 3D art, the disparities and similarities in modes of artistic expression by different generations. Against this backdrop the show ambitiously and intriguingly explores the possibilities of painting in the future.
Yoko Iritani: Verandah Lullaby

31 August - 12 September 2010

neutron kyoto
Working with colored pencil, Iritani produces coloring book-like drawings, based on old photos and her own memory, of her childhood home. While this show is dominated by a large piece depicting the house's parlor and another of a graveyard, it also includes smaller compositions with such motifs as a child's plastic playpool and the view from a train window en route to school.
Shashin ni Kaere Exhibition

3 - 19 September 2010

Zen Foto Gallery
Subtitled "Propaganda & The Avant-Garde: Japanese Photography of the 1930s," this show, whose title literally means "return to photography" in the imperative sense, was curated by art critic Kotaro Izawa and culled from the collection of gallery owner Mark Pearson. The creators of these high-quality works, which include a number of rare vintage prints, range from big names like Ihei Kimura, Hoko Shimamura, Iwata Nakayama and Kanbei Hanaya to anonymous amateur photographers.
Kiichiro Adachi: SOAP/SOAP

28 August - 26 September 2010

NADiff Gallery
Adachi's installation (the title is an acronym for "Symbol of Absolute Power / Silence or Absent Party") consists of several spindle-shaped objects completely covered with tiny mirrors. As they rotate under light they reflect it in random, diffuse patterns, like a mirror ball.

Ryuji Miyamoto: 1975-2010 Film & Digital

10 September - 9 October 2010

Taro Nasu
Visitors to photographer and videographer Miyamoto's solo show descend the stairs to come face to face with a forest on a vertical monitor screen. It could be a still picture; the trees do not seem to move at all. Lined up along a side wall are five monitors showing individual trees; these move and sway quite vigorously. But as our eyes shift from screen to screen, the forest, too, begins to rustle and shift -- so subtly that it seems it might be no more than a product of computer manipulation. It is an effective reminder of how rarely we see the forest for the trees.

Naoyoshi Hikosaka: History Lessons / The Imaginary Museum of the Imperial Palace

3 - 14 September 2010

Makii Masaru Fine Arts
From his 1970s "Floor Event" series to his conceptualist "Wood Painting," to his model of a "Museum of the Imperial Palace" to replace the actual palace in Tokyo (the idea being to send the emperor packing back to Kyoto), Hikosaka has always cast a relativistic, critical eye on everything -- even his own art. This retrospective, which includes installations, photographs and film works, highlights his oeuvre in all its glorious eccentricity.
Motoki Tanaka
10 - 25 September 2010
Oto Gallery
Tanaka has an obsession with the numeral zero; his motif of choice has consisted for some time of countless tiny rubber-stamped 0's, and this solo outing is no exception. The new works here are solid objects -- some oblong, some circular -- made of numerous layers of resin, in which, naturally, countless 0's are embedded. Tanaka's time-consuming technique involves stamping the zeroes into each layer of resin in turn.
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