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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 February 2017
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endless: The Paintings of Yamada Masaaki
6 December 2016 - 12 February 2017
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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This major retrospective brings together some 220 paintings by the prolific Yamada, who died six years ago. They extend from his early Still Life series, through the famed stripe motifs of his sixties-era Work, to his late Color series. Though the stripe paintings constitute nearly half of the show, the Color works are the real standouts. Also worth a look are his notebooks, in which he kept meticulous track of his production process.

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Northern Song Ru Ware Narcissus Basins: Treasured Masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, Taipei
10 December 2016 - 26 March 2017
The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
(Osaka)
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The celadon narcissus basins fired at the Ru kiln for China's Northern Song court during the late 11th and early 12th centuries are revered as some of the finest ceramics ever made. Four basins from Taipei's National Palace Museum join a fifth in the possession of the host museum, as well as one 18th-century Qing dynasty basin modeled after these earlier masterpieces. Smooth, hard, and lustrous, they epitomize an aesthetic diametrically opposite that of the wares associated with Japan's tea ceremony.
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Antarctic Architecture 1957-2016

9 December 2016 - 21 February 2017

LIXIL Gallery Osaka
(Osaka)
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What sort of architecture is required to withstand the extreme environment of Antarctica? This show traces the evolution of building design on that chilly continent, focusing primarily on Japan's Showa Station, first erected in 1957. A crucial factor in improving Antarctic structures is the ongoing modification of the ships tasked with hauling building materials and other supplies to the stations. A revealing look at the knowledge and trial-and-error that produce safe, comfortable living and working quarters in such harsh conditions.
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Welcome to Yokoo Hot Springs Village!

17 December 2016 - 26 March 2017

Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art
(Hyogo)

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At the time of year when a nice long soak in hot water sounds most enticing, the museum offers up a collection of Yokoo paintings, prints, and posters depicting hot springs and public baths. Most of the works belong to his "Bathhouse Series," first presented in 2004 at SCAI The Bathhouse, a former public bath converted into a gallery, and the "Hot Springs Series" that Yokoo produced between 2005 and 2008. One can practically feel the steam rising from these pictures.
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19th DOMANI: The Art of Tomorrow
10 December 2016 - 5 February 2017
The National Art Center, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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This year's exhibition of participants in the Agency for Cultural Affairs's Program of Overseas Study for Upcoming Artists departs from previous iterations by showcasing practicing artists born in the 1970s and 1980s who have studied abroad in the years since 2010. Highlights include Yo Okada's paintings, Ryo Orikasa's clay animation, and Akiko Hoshina's installations. Particularly striking are Tomiyuki Kaneko's drawings of Buddhist imagery in Cambodia.
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Yoshiyuki Okuyama: Your Choice Knows Your Right

19 November 2016 - 2 April 2017

Re Dokuro
(Tokyo)
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Hidden down a back street in Tokyo's funky Sendagi district, the Re Dokuro gallery is running a show built around a pair of photo books commemorating the 25th anniversary of another Sendagi fixture, the Wolf's Head fashion shop. One of the volumes is Okuyama's Wolf's, in which the photographer's filmmaking sensibilities come to the fore with images split into grids, multiple images occupying the same frame, and other auteur-like schemes.
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Sawada Kyoichi: From Home to Battle Zone
8 October - 11 December 2016
Aomori Museum of Art
(Aomori)
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Aomori-born Sawada (1936-70) earned the Pulitzer and numerous other prizes as a press photographer before he was killed while on assignment in Cambodia. His devastating images of the Vietnam War have appeared in countless media. The Aomori Museum celebrates its tenth anniversary with a retrospective of some 300 photographs and other documents out of the 25,000 Sawada-related items in its collection.
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Ryudai Takano: Distance and Time
26 November 2016 - 9 January 2017
NADiff Gallery
(Tokyo)
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In the seventies and eighties, Takano used the term "conceptual photography" to frame his efforts to push the envelope in response to the question "What is photography?" This recent show marks a robust return to that stance. Though Takano has always displayed an experimental streak, his 2010 "Declaration of Secession from Photography" signaled an acceleration of this tendency. His tenacious pursuit of new ways to confront the medium will no doubt continue to bear fascinating fruit.
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Yuta Hirai: BIOCRACY
22 November - 24 December 2016
Garter
(Tokyo)
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Whether it's a video that chronicles the eccentricities of reggae legend Lee Perry, or one that interviews advocates asserting the positive contributions of marijuana to society, Hirai's work abounds with imaginative twists that kick our thought patterns clear out of their everyday frame of reference. The brilliant thing about Hirai is that he helps us hone our own powers of artistic imagination to do battle with a contemporary society that takes reality-challenged artifice to new heights.
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Two Artists from Maebashi, Mineki Murata and Takayuki Yagi
3 - 24 December 2016

CAS (Contemporary Art and Spirits)
(Osaka)

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Both born in the seventies and making their home in the Gunma prefectural capital of Maebashi, Murata and Yagi share a knack for powerful performance art but embody utterly disparate approaches. Where Murata is at once introverted and destructive, Yagi exudes an aura of cheerful liberation, as when he lugs a bathtub on his back outdoors and takes a leisurely dip while admiring the scenery. Both artists, however, create work that amply conveys the richness and potential of Maebashi's environment, both urban and natural.
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