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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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Mitsuhiro Okamoto: UFO
5 October - 3 November 2018
eitoeiko
(Tokyo)
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Okamoto made a media splash in 2015 with his 3.6-meter diameter UFO Unidentified Falling Object, a giant instant-noodle package embedded in the lawn in front of the Aomori Museum of Art. This recent show offered not only Unidentified Freespinning Object from the same "UFO" series, but also new works. Brimming with humor, Okamoto's oeuvre delights in giving form to the unknown while challenging our assumptions about the known.
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Jun Abe: Byakko-sha
9 - 27 October 2018
The Third Gallery Aya
(Osaka)
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Abe (b. 1955) is an educator and a street photographer who served as staff photographer for the butoh dance troupe Byakko-sha from 1982 to 1994. In his urban snapshots he seeks to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary. His Byakko-sha work, exhibited here, takes the opposite approach, inserting the decidedly non-quotidian space created by the dancers into an everyday frame by fixing the festive dissimilation effect they generate with a dispassionate gaze.
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Kazuo Fukunaga -- Artist: 1989-2018 -- Behind the Scenes of Artist Yasumasa Morimura

29 September - 21 October 2018
B Gallery
(Tokyo)
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While studying at Kyoto City University of Arts, Fukunaga took photography classes with Y. Ernest Satow, through whom he met visiting lecturer Morimura. After graduation and a stint as a commercial photographer, he went independent and became deeply involved in Morimura's self-portrait art. This show featured behind-the-scenes snapshots Fukunaga took with a miniature camera while putting the finishing touches on Morimura's work.
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SOME Planning by THINKS ARTISTS
13 October - 4 November 2018
Art Laboratory Hashimoto
(Kanagawa)
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The area stretching from Hachioji to Sagamihara on the western edge of Tokyo boasts a number of art schools as well as cheap rent and plenty of abandoned factories and empty warehouses. Hence quite a few young artists stay on after graduation and share studio space here. "Super Open Studio 2018" was a joint undertaking by 24 such studios, and this curiously titled exhibition was its centerpiece, an omnibus showcase of works by 33 selected artists.
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Keiichiro Goto in Subjective Photography
14 November - 1 December 2018
Studio 35minutes
(Tokyo)
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Subjective photography was an international movement in the 1950s that revisited prewar avant-garde photography's emphasis on the subjectivity and creativity of the photographer. One of the movement's major exponents in Japan was Goto (1918-2004), whose work in the 1950s was the focus of this exhibition. On offer were not only vintage prints from that period, but also a generous selection of previously unpublished images printed from negatives for the first time.
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Nae Mikuni: Glare
14 - 25 November 2018
Tokyo Institute of Photography 72 Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Photographer Mikuni (b. 1984) has taken her inspiration for this series from the phenomenon of glare, when car headlights, for example, are so bright as to render human figures invisible. This solo outing, a result of the Grand Prix that Mikuni won at the 34th Higashikawa International Photo Festival, signifies the arrival of an artist whose work stimulates the viewer's imagination with its unique point of view and skilled execution.
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Kawori Inbe: Soft Opening
6 - 26 November 2018
The Gallery, Nikon Plaza Shinjuku
(Tokyo)
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Inbe has made a name for herself as a photographer who engages with her female models to learn about their personal concerns and values, then gets them to act those out for the camera. This presentation, which coincided with the publication of her second photo book, Imperfect Cat, consisted almost entirely of newly shot images. Of particular interest is her use of a 35-millimeter digital single lens reflex camera instead of her usual 6 x 7 format, giving a subtly different flavor to her work.
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The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition (Nitten)
2 - 25 November 2018
The National Art Center, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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Since its inception as the Ministry of Education Art Exhibition (Bunten) in 1907, this hoary event -- allegedly the world's biggest art show -- has undergone name changes and survived the vicissitudes of war. In this, its 111th year, Nitten received 11,558 submissions of which it accepted 2,254 -- including 320 first-timers -- in five genres: Japanese Painting, Western Painting, Sculpture, Craft, and Calligraphy. But the rigor of the selection process and comparisons of the show's scope with the art market at large pose questions about its role in today's art world.
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Sculpted In Time: Narrative Existence

1 - 11 November 2018

The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts
(Tokyo)
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Held by the university's Department of Sculpture every autumn, this group show never fails to expand one's conception of what qualifies as sculpture, provoking reactions ranging from awe ("How did they manage to sculpt that?!") to bemusement ("You call that sculpture?!"). One of the more intriguing aspects is a Geidai tradition of mysterious provenance that has students of all grades sculpt works on a preselected theme -- monkeys, apples, and so on.
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Geidai Collection 2018
2 October - 11 November 2018
The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts
(Tokyo)
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The university's own collection boasts some must-see masterpieces of early modern Japanese art. Among the beauties displayed here: Salmon by Takahashi Yuichi (1828-94), Harvest by Asai Chu (1856-1907), and Draft Sketches for the Chigusanoma Ceiling Brocade by Shibata Zenshin (1807-91) -- a study for a gold-backed brocade of 112 squares containing circular wild-plant motifs, which the emperor is said to have spent time contemplating during the war, when it adorned the ceiling of the Meiji Palace.
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