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

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image image 1 November 2016
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Léonard Foujita and His Models
17 September 2016 - 15 January 2017
Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art
(Chiba)
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As the title suggests, this is an exhibition of Foujita's paintings of human figures, comprising some 90 works spanning his entire career. Included are his famous "milky-white" nudes, a prewar self-portrait of the artist as louche bohemian, and meticulously detailed compositions from his later years like Portrait de Jean Rostand. Among the standouts are four massive mural-size works with multiple figures, among them the 1928 masterpiece Composition with a Lion.

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BODY/PLAY/POLITICS
1 October - 14 December 2016
Yokohama Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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A selection of works by contemporary artists taking as their theme the variegated images of the body -- single and collective, natural and supernatural -- that human beings have constructed over the millennia. Each of the six featured artists, who hail from Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Japan, occupies a full gallery. Of special note is Okinawa-born Ryuichi Ishikawa's series of photos of an elderly man and woman who seem just a bit outside society's mainstream. Accompanying the pictures are Ishikawa's handwritten remarks about episodes involving the couple.
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Yasumasa Morimura: The Genesis of "I"

2 September - 6 November 2016

MEM
(Tokyo)
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Best known for impersonating historic figures in self-portraits or inserting himself into famous works of art, Morimura here focuses on his early monochromatic photography from the eighties and nineties. Though clearly of a time when he was still searching for his own "voice," the images reveal the same scrupulous attention to detail and compositional process as his later work. Perhaps Morimura's revisitation of his past hints at directions he is contemplating for the future.
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Jiro Yoshihara: Leader of Gutai -- Seeking for the New

17 September - 27 November 2016

Ashiya City Museum of Art & History
(Hyogo)

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This joint exhibition by the Ashiya City Museum and the planning department of the Osaka City Museum of Modern Art offers some 90 works by Yoshihara, founder of the seminal avant-garde Gutai Art Association. About two-thirds belong to the Osaka City Museum, not yet open but home to a definitive collection of Gutai works. Included are 20 pieces on public display for the first time, and viewers are in store for some surprises. Yoshihara's prewar and early postwar output is unfamiliar and intriguing, but the climax to his career comes during his late period, after the founding of Gutai.
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Modern Japan Package 2016
17 September - 27 November 2016
Printing Museum, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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An edifying assemblage of prizewinning works from Japan's major package design competitions. Nowadays it is not enough for packages to enhance their products' appeal to customers at retail outlets. Improvements are constantly demanded in ease of opening and resealing, as well as in accommodating environmental concerns about recyclability and the economical use of resources. The packages on display here testify to the creativity that goes into efforts to respond to these needs.
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Washi: The Wondrous Beauty and Utility of Japanese Handmade Paper

9 September - 22 November 2016

LIXIL Gallery
(Osaka)
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An eye-opening presentation of the multifarious uses of washi -- traditional Japanese paper, which boasts a durability (said to surpass 1,000 years) and versatility far exceeding those of conventional Western-style paper. Divided into sections on clothing, food, shelter, and amusement, this is a stunning showcase of the handmade paper's historical applications to everything from umbrellas and garments to tea bowls to lanterns to hats.
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Art Embroidery and Cut-velvet
20 August - 13 November 2016
The Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum
(Kyoto)
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A collection of masterpieces of embroidered art, in which silk or gold thread takes the place of paint, as well as of works made by applying yuzen dyes to velvet. The embroidered images of flowers, birds, animals, and landscapes are sublime, the thread imbuing the compositions with a unique luster and solidity. The artists' skills in utilizing different types, thicknesses, and sewing patterns of thread to achieve expressive effects are nothing short of breathtaking.
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Hiroshi Sugimoto: Lost Human Genetic Archive
3 September - 13 November 2016
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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After a two-year closure for renovations, Tokyo's premier photo museum, now christened with the curious acronym "TOP," has reopened with this multifaceted exhibition by photographer-cum-contemporary-artist Sugimoto. The third floor is devoted to a powerful installation that incorporates objects from his personal collection, while the second floor complements this with a series of prints that highlight his prodigious photographic skills.
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Kishin Shinoyama, La Maison de rendez-vous
3 September 2016 - 9 January 2017
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
(Tokyo)
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The 77 photos making up this show are all new, all were shot at the Hara Museum, and all feature nude models (only one subject, the museum director, poses with clothes on). Shinoyama (b. 1940), a veteran known for his sometimes provocative emphasis on nakedness, has posed his subjects all over the museum and its grounds, then "returned" their images to the same venue, sometimes to the exact same spot where he filmed them. The exhibition abounds with tricks of this sort, making it entertaining, even surprising, on a number of levels. (See this issue's Focus for a detailed review.)
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Meiji Kogei: Amazing Japanese Art
7 September - 30 October 2016

University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts
(Tokyo)

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From Taiwan collector Song Peian's 3,000-item trove of Meiji-era (late 19th to early 20th century) Japanese craftworks, 131 have returned to their country of origin for this, the first public display of the collection outside Taiwan. The standouts are the freestanding ornamental renderings of dragons, snakes, shrimp, crabs and the like. Made of iron, silver, and other metals, these are ultra-realistic critters with mobile bodies and limbs. Their unparalleled workmanship has made this period of Japanese crafts a favorite of overseas collectors of late.
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