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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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Late-Bloomer Revolution!
15 October 2016 - 29 January 2017
Kushino Terrace
(Hiroshima)
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Nobumasa Kushino is Japan's one and only curator of outsider art. For many years he organized some utterly unique exhibitions at the Tomonotsu Museum in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture. Now he has struck out on his own and opened Kushino Terrace, a gallery dedicated to outsider art in the same city. The current show features four artists -- Dadakan, Megumi Cho, Makiemaki, and Kimiko Nishimoto -- who offer pure, unfettered expressions of their innermost impulses.

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It's a Sony
12 November 2016 - 31 March 2017
Sony Building, Ginza
(Tokyo)
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On the verge of demolition, the Ginza-landmark Sony Building is currently the venue for a show about itself. Visitors can stroll up and down the spiral of split-level "skip floors," taking in exhibits ranging from Sony products, to architect Yoshinobu Ashihara's maverick design of the structure, to documents commemorating its 1966 opening. The building will be missed, but this show provides a fitting farewell. It's also good news that the lot will be turned into a public park pending the completion of a new Sony Building on the site.
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The State of This World: Thought and the Arts

10 December 2016 - 12 February 2017

Ashiya City Museum of Art and History
(Hyogo)
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For this second installment of the museum's "art trip" series of exhibitions juxtaposing contemporary art with works from its collection, the theme is "thought." Can we hone our thinking faculties so as to project our thoughts beyond our immediate environment? Artists Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Zon Ito, Yuko Ozawa, and Kotaro Maetani were invited to arrange their own works alongside some complementary items -- earthenware, a fossilized elephant tusk, art by avant-garde composer Takehisa Kosugi.
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Tokyo Tokyo and TOKYO: Contemporary Japanese Photography, vol. 13

22 November 2016 - 29 January 2017

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)

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The renovated museum celebrates its reopening with photos of Tokyo by six up-and-coming artists: Yasutaka Kojima, Shintaro Sato, Kazutomo Tashiro, Takehiko Nakafuji, Keiko Nomura, and Keizo Motoda. All evince a simple directness in their attempts to capture the megalopolis as it is today, an increasingly impassive subject. Kojima and Sato bring a fresh approach to cityscapes; Motoda and Tashiro focus on streetside portraits; Nomura places nudes against everyday backdrops; and Nakafuji seeks out the odors and textures of neighborhoods.
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Design Anatomy: A method for seeing the world through familiar objects
14 October 2016 - 22 January 2017
21_21 DESIGN SIGHT
(Tokyo)
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Per its title, the show's conceit is to dissect and analyze the designs of commercial products, from the surface on down. Products by Meiji Seika, the snack-food behemoth and a "special supporter" of the exhibition, predominate, though other popular items like Lotte gum and Fuji Film disposable cameras are featured as well. What's most impressive is that the concept is presented in a fashion sufficiently amusing to draw large crowds.
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Hanaya Kanbei: A Photographer and His Age

19 November 2016 - 19 March 2017

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
(Hyogo)
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Hanaya (1903-91), who hailed from Ashiya in Hyogo Prefecture, was one of the most influential photographers in both prewar and postwar Japan.
Though generally associated with photomontages and the "new photography" movement, he was a protean artist who also shot compelling portraits of city-dwellers and Kii Peninsula landscapes in his later years. The 120 prints in this show include works by his Ashiya Camera Club colleagues Kichinosuke Beniya, Seiji Korai, and Juzo Matsubara.
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Art for Life: Earthquake
22 October 2016 - 9 January 2017
The Taro Okamoto Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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When disaster strikes, what can an artist do? This show brings together creatives with Tohoku links who, instead of loudly bewailing the region's 2011 tsunami and nuclear accident, quietly reached out to victims of the disasters on the premise that "to create is to live." Participants include sculptor Eisaku Ando, photographer Itaru Hirama, video artist Yui Okubo, and the art unit "Is it possible TOHOKU-GA?"
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Naoya Hatakeyama: Cloven Landscape
3 November 2016 - 8 January 2017
Sendai Mediatheque Gallery 4200
(Miyagi)
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Part 1 of this retrospective offers works rarely seen in the photographer's solo shows, including his debut Contour Line series. Part 2 scrutinizes future prospects for the tsunami-devastated communities of Tohoku, among them Hatakeyama's hometown of Rikuzen-takata. The title, which he says derives from Italo Calvino's novel The Cloven Viscount, alludes to the duality inherent in all landscapes, a theme apparent in much of his work and particularly in these images.
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Masato Kobayashi: Thrice Upon A Time
21 October - 4 December 2016
ShugoArts
(Tokyo)
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Maybe it's because of the recurring earthquakes of late, but seeing Kobayashi's painting precariously affixed to a shaky wooden frame brought to mind the notion of quake-damaged art. Was this apparent departure from the artist's earlier dismantlings of formalism a product of a change in him, or in the viewer, or in the times we live in? Most likely all three.
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Mika Ninagawa: Light of
21 October - 3 December 2016

Tomio Koyama Gallery
(Tokyo)

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These are photographs primarily of fireworks displays. Time-lapse exposures, filters and the like can transform fireworks into magical geometric patterns, but Ninagawa will have none of that. She simply points and shoots, and the results resemble nothing so much as abstract expressionism. Fireworks photos like these may well be unprecedented, and therein lies their charm.
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