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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 2 April 2018
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Travelers: Stepping into the Unknown
21 January - 6 May 2018
The National Museum of Art, Osaka
(Osaka)
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This show commemorating the museum's 40th anniversary sprawls across every floor of the facility. Section 1 features works that address the multilayered aspects of memory and time, while Section 2 focuses on performance works and their documentation. By incorporating live performances into the exhibit, the museum is pursuing a vision that embraces art of problematic collectability. It's a challenging approach that demands consideration of works that might be excluded when museums assign priority to those that can be stored as part of their collection.

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Hanako Murakami: Anticamera (of the eye)
11 December 2017 - 19 January 2018
The Dai-Ichi Life Gallery
(Tokyo)
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A solo show by photographer Murakami, who won honorable mention at last year's VOCA (Vision of Contemporary Art) exhibition, an annual event sponsored by the Dai-Ichi Life Group. This series consists of prints made by developing dry plates of the world's first color photos, produced 100 years ago by the Autochrome Lumière process but never used. Instead of images of recognizable objects, what these plates grew were smudge-like chance patterns bred by a century's worth of optical and chemical reactions. They are definitely paintings of a sort, as no doubt occurred to the artist.

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Fuminao Suenaga: Unknown Sculpture Series No.7 #6: Generic Object

11 - 28 January 2018

Gallery21yo-j
(Tokyo)
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Sixteen cinderblocks of the type used to build walls are laid out on the floor at a diagonal in two rows of eight each. As one might surmise from the title, this is the ultimate generic block wall -- the latest such offering by Suenaga, who likes to turn all kinds of rectangular objects into "pictures" (or in this case, since they stand on the floor, "sculptures"). His materials are everyday items, which he places on walls, floors, or wall-floor interfaces -- typical habitats of paintings or sculptures.

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Fragments of Graphism: An Alternative History of Graphic Design in Japan

23 January - 22 February 2018

Creation Gallery G8
(Tokyo)

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This attempt to reinterpret and reconstruct the history of 20th-century graphic design in Japan took its cues from Idea, a journal that has covered graphic design both here and abroad since its launch in 1953. Built around a comprehensive design timeline, the exhibits displayed the fruits of some intriguing thematic research by 13 cutting-edge designers in their thirties or forties. With some highly idiosyncratic views of that history on parade, it was like getting a glimpse of each designer's bookshelf.
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Tsuyoshi Ozawa: Imperfection: Parallel Art History
6 January - 25 February 2018
Chiba City Museum of Art
(Chiba)
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Ozawa's works always offer a humorous take on the distortions and misconceptions that inevitably arose in the course of Japan's absorption of Western art -- oil painting in particular. "Imperfection" is a word that appears repeatedly in Tenshin Okakura's famous Book of Tea -- not as a negative concept, but as one indicative of a potential for perfection. Ozawa may have something there when he applies the term to Japanese art that strives to be Western but can't quite pull it off.
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Koganecho Serenade: Hideki Yamada's Koganecho

26 January - 17 February 2018

MZ arts
(Kanagawa)
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In 2005 the city of Yokohama initiated a project to convert the brothels of the Koganecho red-light district into artist studios and reinvent the neighborhood as an art colony. Things didn't go quite as smoothly as planned -- after all, locales of "ill repute" often provide the most fertile soil for creative endeavors. The photos Yamada took of Koganecho in the late 1990s are a precious record of the district as it once was, and deserve their own archive.
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Shiko Munakata & Soetsu Yanagi
11 January - 25 March 2018
The Japan Folk Crafts Museum
(Tokyo)
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Every artist needs a producer, and the relationship between woodblock artist and Munakata and Mingei movement leader Yanagi certainly bears this out. No artist, however talented, can view his own work with complete objectivity. That's where the producer comes in -- someone who can judge the quality of a work and prod the artist to reach his personal best. Yanagi was not only Munakata's producer but also his patron, the man responsible for sowing the seeds of the artist's global reputation.
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Paintings: Here And Now
13 January - 25 February 2018
Fuchu Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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This group show featured seven painters born between the 1960s and 1980s. The eldest, Mio Shirai, creates works with classical coloring and composition that are brightly poppish yet provocatively unbalanced. Miyuki Tsugami paints from life in Fuchu city proper. Tomoko Fukushi draws airplane motifs manga-style on whiteboard. Shunsuke Imai creates his images on a computer, then transplants them to canvas. Aki Kondo engages in extreme deformations of human, animal and plant figures that somehow please the eye.
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Toru Kuwakubo: A Calendar for Painters Without Time Sense 1. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8
20 January - 17 February 2018
Tomio Koyama Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Six big paintings, each nearly two meters square, depict the fancied "studios" of as many masters, all in outdoor settings with the sea as a backdrop. They resemble a contemporary version of the "gallery paintings" of the past, commissioned by wealthy collectors to depict the works they owned in lieu of catalogs. Also on display are pencil drawings of each composition, to which Kuwakubo has appended calendar pages for particular months. As a giant among giants, Picasso is given pride of place as the January artist. Each calendar month is further augmented by its own LP record of music by Riki Hidaka.
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Tohru Matsushita: "Open/Close City" Part 2, "Room of Joban"
12 January - 3 February 2018

SNOW Contemporary
(Tokyo)

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Dozens of gradually diverging white parabolas are meticulously rendered by dribbling paint from a pendulum, and panels cut out along these curves are joined together into a single picture. Other works have painted circles and squares cut out and embedded in other panels, or panels of different thicknesses layered in relief, or leftover wood scraps arrayed at the base of a wall. This is junk art par excellence, a pastiche of Frank Stella's formalism, Imi Knoebel's as-is sensibility, and street art's spontaneity.
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