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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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Kazuyuki Kawaguchi: Prospects Vol. 3
13 - 30 January 2019
Photographers' Gallery
(Tokyo)
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The third in Kawaguchi's "Prospects" series of solo outings comprised photographs of various locations throughout Japan, from Aomori in the north to Fukuoka in the south. His subjects are downtowns that have fallen into decline, a condition he scrupulously captures with an eye for the minutest details. His focus on textures notwithstanding, however, the underlying reality is too terrible to ignore. One feels as if one is standing next to Kawaguchi, staring at these towns as they decay inexorably toward extinction.
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Eric: Good Luck Hong Kong
11 January - 2 February 2019
Zen Foto Gallery
(Tokyo)
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From the outset of his career, Eric's style has been that of the street snap, aiming his camera at people he happens to pass by. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he left for Japan in 1997 and has made it his home while studying photography, then earning a name for himself as a prizewinning photographer. His decision to revisit and recapture his hometown must have taken some resolve. The images in this series (published in a book last November) are surprisingly intense.
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Bae Sang-Sun: Moon-bow

14 - 27 January 2019
JARFO Kyoto Garo
(Kyoto)
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In her ceramic works as well as her serene yet sinewy monochrome charcoal drawings, Korean artist Bae creates quasi-abstract forms evoking thread, braids, and balls of yarn. The motifs are reminiscent of the traditional Korean art of cord braiding known as maedup, but their fluid, organic lines suggest more than handicrafts or ornaments, conjuring up blood vessels, nervous systems, hair, vines: a vibrant life-energy courses through them.
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Yasuhiro Suzuki: Neighbourhood Globe Journey Tool
23 January - 17 February 2019
Matsuya Ginza Design Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Suzuki is known for observing everyday scenes or phenomena through his own idiosyncratic filter, turning them into art via what he calls "allusions" -- more like visual similes, perhaps. One classic example is his Ship of the Zipper, a boat he built that really does resemble a zipper. His ingenuous explanation: "A ship moving through the sea, leaving a wake behind it, looks like a zipper to me." This recent show, consisting of walls covered with sketches of his myriad ideas, drew the viewer deep into the alternate universe that is Suzuki World.
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Issey Miyake: Obi Konbu
19 January - 18 February 2019
21_21 Design Sight
(Tokyo)
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Iconic fashion designer Miyake's work has, if anything, attracted even more attention in recent years with growing recognition among designers of all stripes that he is a creator not only of fashion, but of products. His ten-year-old project Reality Lab has led the way in researching and developing new materials, serving as a bellwether for future social trends. The Obi and Konbu product lines displayed here, both of them Reality Lab creations, are handbags made by new processes with new materials.
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Izumi Matsumoto: Empty Shell
6 - 17 February 2018
The National Art Center, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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For many years Matsumoto worked as an in-house package designer for Shiseido. Upon retirement, though, he began a new career as a photographer of insects, which he describes as the embodiment of "package designs of life." Insects, he explains, are encased in an exoskeleton, a protective "package" that they periodically shed. In this recent solo show, Matsumoto offered some stunning hi-res close-ups of these cast-off husks -- exquisite figures still exuding the life force that inhabited them a short while before they were photographed.
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Kozo Miyoshi: Mayu
8 January - 23 February 2019
PGI
(Tokyo)
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Miyoshi has been taking pictures with a large-format view camera since the 1980s. The subject of this series is the silk cocoon (mayu), a presence with a strangely mystical aura. Each cocoon houses a single silkworm, and each boasts its own subtle variations on the basic simple shape, shifting in appearance according to the angle and light by which one views it. Miyoshi has lovingly captured the arrays of these living forms as they sit, each in its own enclosure, in the lattice-like frames known as mabushi.
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Beyond the End: Ruins in Art History
8 December 2018 - 31 January 2019
The Shoto Museum of Art
(Tokyo)
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One unique aspect of this exhibition on the theme of ruins as art is its demonstration that in Japan, the notion of ruins as an object of aesthetic appreciation was a modern import from the West. Consider that ancient European structures were generally made of stone or brick; even when they crumbled, remnants survived that gave a hint of past glories. Japan, on the other hand, was a land of wooden structures that vanished without a trace, leaving little to wax rhapsodic or nostalgic about.
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Rikiya Iwakuma: Hunting/Gathering and Art

7 - 19 January 2019

Gallery Kobayashi
(Tokyo)
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The works in this latest show by Iwakuma are not your typical paintings. Done in ink he made by mixing soot with glue from animal hides, and applied by brush to paper or animal bones, they depict deer and wild boar in landscapes of the mountainous Kiso region of central Japan. Iwakuma says he takes his inspiration from the cave paintings of Paleolithic hunter-artists, whom he believes were trying to resurrect the animals from the dead through their works.
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Taisuke Nakano: HYPER/PIP
29 January - 15 February 2019
Guardian Garden
(Tokyo)
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Winner of the grand prize in the gallery's "1_WALL" photo exhibition last year, Nakano covered the walls of his commemorative solo show with some 60 photographs of all sizes and subjects, the picture frames crowded with random people and objects. The surfaces of the prints were coated with a jelly-like film containing iridescent air bubbles, producing a sensation among viewers akin to floating in a large tank of water.
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