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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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KG+ Select 2019: Sangsun Bae - Moonbow
12 April - 12 May 2019
Former Junpu Elementary School
(Kyoto)
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Korea-born, Japan-based artist Sangsun Bae was chosen to hold a solo show at KG+, an open-entry art festival held concurrently with the invitational photography festival Kyotographie 2019. It introduced her recent Moonbow series, the fruit of three years of research into the little-known history of the South Korean city of Daejon under the Japanese occupation from the early 1900s until the end of World War II, including the lives of the Japanese dwelling there. Her brilliantly conceived installation was perfectly suited to its venue, a classroom in a now-closed elementary school.
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Bone Music
27 April - 12 May 2019
Ba-Tsu Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
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The flyer for this show featured a used X-ray photo recycled as a phonograph record. Such disks were actually made and played in the Soviet Union between the 1940s and 1960s as a medium for sharing banned music. Western culture was censored in the USSR during the Cold War, but fans of jazz or rock and roll hit upon the idea of recording the music on disks made of X-ray film discarded by hospitals. Known as "bone music," these records, which still bore the images of human skeletons, were bought and sold by music lovers in secret. The show is a lesson in how oppression can breed ingenious means of resistance.
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KG+ 2019: Ran Kokubun, Junko Hirano, Chiaki Kano

12 April - 12 May 2019
Kyoto Style Climbing Kiln
(Kyoto)
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Among the venues used for the Kyotographie satellite art festival KG+, one annual standout is the Kyoto Style Climbing Kiln, once part of a major Kyoto Ware (Kyo-yaki) production center until the 1950s. With most climbing kilns of the era gone, this one is a historical treasure. Among the artists exhibiting here this year, three women photographers explored how memories of a place can be documented through photographs, as well as how the relationship between a place and its history, as made visible through the medium of photography, can sometimes be adversarial.
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The 10th Gelatin Silver Session
26 April - 6 May 2019
Axis Gallery
(Tokyo)
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The Gelatin Silver Session (GSS) series began in 2006 when Tamotsu Fujii, Taishi Hirokawa, Itaru Hirama, and Mikiya Takimoto exchanged negatives and printed them according to their respective tastes. For this year's installment, which we are told is the final one, 50 participating photographers presented previously unreleased silver halide prints along with their comments on the theme of "Photographs We Want to Preserve for 100 Years."
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Tokyo Independent 2019
18 April - 5 May 2019
Tokyo University of the Arts Chinretsukan Gallery
(Tokyo)
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This purportedly independent, unjuried, open-entry exhibition is touted as a revival of the Yomiuri Independent, a seminal contemporary art event in postwar Japan. But why now? Apparently because the last Yomiuri Independent was held in 1963, the year before the first Tokyo Olympics, and 2019 is the year before the second Olympics. Though contemporary-art competitions have proliferated in Japan's post-bubble years, not a few young artists express disdain for their fussy requirements. This one claims to welcome the participation of such misfits.
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KG+ 2019: Kai Maetani - Kapsel
5 - 21 April 2019
Finch Arts
(Kyoto)
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Since 2012 Maetani has been shooting his Kapsel series of self-portraits in the buff. All of them show him sitting in the sterile environment of a capsule hotel and staring at the camera, remote shutter release in his hand. The lens captures the surreal space that extends behind the oval window of the capsule. Through this process of self-examination, Maetani not only scrutinizes his inner life, but also reveals, for better or worse, the larger social environment that surrounds him.
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Yoh Aoki: should, it suits, pleasant
18 - 30 April 2019
Alt_Medium
(Tokyo)
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Through his camera lens, Aoki seeks to capture the instant when an everyday occurrence suddenly feels slightly discomfiting, when the familiar morphs into the unfamiliar. Images that may appear drab and trivial at first glance reward us upon closer inspection with a vicarious sharing of Aoki's delight in pressing the shutter upon encountering such moments. His pictures draw us into a poignant personal reality, a unique way of seeing the world.
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Kazuto Miura: Land
11 - 23 April 2019
Gallery Saikousha
(Saitama)
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When I heard that Miura was spending time in the Tohoku region photographing areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. A classmate and close friend of the late photographer Shigeo Gocho at Kuwasawa Design School, Miura shared Gocho's coolly detached approach to portrayals of familiar people and places. However, the series at Gallery Saikousha, which he began shooting in April 2011 and continued over the course of two or three visits a year to coastal locales in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, has all the more impact because Miura's stance has not changed one bit.
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Tomoko Hisamatsu Solo Exhibition

10 - 15 April 2019

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store
(Tokyo)
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Though she was trained in the Japanese-style Nihonga tradition, Hisamatsu's work emphasizes painterliness over such distinctions as Nihonga vs. Western-style (Yoga) painting. What she creates are more properly described as "paintings about painting" -- meta-paintings if you will. Her specific focus of interest is modern Japanese painting and its concomitant tensions: not only in terms of Nihonga vs. Yoga, but also the wartime "battle-painting" conundrum.
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Yuko Nakamura: "Alice In Bed" - Reading Performance
2 - 10 March 2019
Ex-Noguchi Room, Keio University Art Center
(Tokyo)
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Participants in this reading performance were assigned roles and scenes by seating order, so nearly everyone in attendance read some part of the dialogue. Due to the mechanics of the assignment process, actors and their roles did not match in terms of gender or age, and the same role would change actors from scene to scene. The result -- that men sometimes read the part of the oppressed female protagonist -- was no doubt one of the objectives. What I personally found most intriguing, though, was the way this reading by multiple voices sparked the emergence of diverse voices from my own mouth.
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