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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 3 July 2017
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uncatchable story
11 June - 17 July 2017
Zuiun-an
(Kyoto)
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A three-person show featuring Koutarou Ushijima, known for juxtaposing words with arrangements of found objects; Shusuke Tanaka, a painter of "I"-novel-like landscapes; and Tsubasa Ako, who expands chance encounters with incomprehensible words and images into drawings, photos, journeys, research, and performances. The unifying theme is how we deal with the endless deluge of words that floods our lives today.

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Etsuko Tajima: Records of Clay and Glass
10 June - 30 July 2017
Otani Memorial Art Museum, Nishinomiya City
(Hyogo)
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Tajima makes clay and glass sculptures that brim with life. In the 1980s she produced huge, colorful ceramic objects, but in the '90s began to shift to a less ornamental, more minimalist style that has evolved into an original approach that combines glass with ceramics. This show presents 15 works, mostly post-'80s installations as well as her celebrated Cornucopia series.
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Handai Robot World

26 April - 5 August 2017

Museum of Osaka University
(Osaka)
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Osaka University (which goes by the acronym Handai in Japanese) is a leader in robot research, both humanoid and android. This show introduces some state-of-the-art robots built for symbiotic coexistence with humans. An early-model android provides a glimpse into the robot fabrication process. The centerpiece is an android of Leonardo da Vinci, pioneer in the fusion of science, technology and art.
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Brick-Colored Memories: Harada-no-Mori 100 Years Ago

28 April - 30 July 2017

Kobe City Museum of Literature
(Hyogo)

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The museum occupies the former Branch Memorial Chapel, built in 1904 on the first campus of Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe's Harada-no-Mori district. This exhibition gathers photos and other materials chronicling how the campus and its neighboring student quarter developed during the early decades of the 20th century. The red-brick Gothic Revival building provides the perfect ambience for contemplating the lives of young scholars a century ago.
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100100000000 Light-years Tunnel: Tsunao Okumura, Nerhol, Nanae Mitobe
5 May - 6 August 2017
Musée Hamaguchi Yozo: Yamasa Collection
(Tokyo)
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Works by mezzotint engraver Hamaguchi are joined by those of three contemporary artists venturing into untrod territories. Okumura spends hundreds of hours on a single embroidery work while on duty as a night watchman. The artist duo Nerhol presents multiple-roadside tree, a series of photos of wood shapes with incremental variations. Mitobe slathers gobs of oil onto steel panels to produce paintings that are nearly sculptures. All these works give form to the gradual accumulation of time.
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Yuji Hamada: Broken Chord

10 May - 8 July 2017

PGI
(Tokyo)
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Hamada has consistently produced works that showcase the potential of photography as an expressive medium. This show centers around photos he took during a month-long sojourn in Wroclaw, Poland in the fall of 2016. Once part of Germany, the city is a place where one feels the presence of multiple layers of history and memory. To convey this experience, Hamada has made both straight prints and double exposures of images extracted from the townscape. His distant views of the city are also intriguing.
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Osamu Kokufu: "Engine in the Water" redux
4 - 30 July 2017
Art Space Niji
(Kyoto)
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Kokufu, who died in an installation-related accident in 2014, created his seminal work Engine in the Water in 2012 by submerging the exposed engine from his cherished light truck in a huge tank of water and starting it up. The water in the tank cooled the heat emitted by the running engine. An icon of post-Fukushima art, it is reconstructed here as part of a project by independent curator Mizuki Endo.
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Birth of the Constitution of Japan
8 April - 7 May 2017
National Archives of Japan
(Tokyo)
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Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Constitution of Japan, promulgated on 3 May 1947, this timely exhibition offered a trove of relevant documents, including an original copy of the Constitution, a draft by Douglas MacArthur, and the English dictionary used as a reference in composing the text. In an era when it seems increasingly difficult to conjure up a concrete image of the Constitution, this was an ideal opportunity to see the real thing.
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Kurumi Onishi: Form and Memory
16 - 23 April 2017
Gallery 301
(Hyogo)
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Onishi creates ceramic garlands of flowers by immersing the living flowers in slip and baking them. The blossoms burn up in the kiln, leaving clay husks that call to mind mummies, death masks, or the cast-off skins of insects. Every one of these objects exudes a whiff of elegance, but also of innocence -- the artist is still very young, so her technique has a certain ingenuous charm born of inexperience. One looks forward to her growth from this point on.
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Kozue Tanaka: Feeling Near Even When Far
17 - 22 April 2017

Gallery Haku 3
(Osaka)

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The oil paintings in this solo show, which depict the sea beyond sand dunes, or seashores below rocky cliffs, are noteworthy for their compositional daring. Combining representational and abstract elements, they conjure up intimate moods through the appearance of small human figures amid the landscapes and seascapes. Tanaka says her aim is to express the connections and distances between the self and others by "painting people who happened to appear in the scene by chance."
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