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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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Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles
20 June - 27 October 2019
Mori Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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This massive solo show brings together Shiota's most representative works. One huge installation follows another, but the most stunning is the one that fills the first gallery. That is Uncertain Journey, in which a myriad red threads rise into the air from a number of boat-shaped frames. A single red thread traditionally symbolizes the relationship between a man and a woman, but these scarlet explosions evoke flames leaping from the boats, or perhaps sprays of blood.
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Keiichi Tanaami: Great Journey
5 July - 21 August 2019
Ginza Graphic Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Even today, at 80, Tanaami continues to create his own unique world across genres as diverse as prints, 3D works, animation, kitchenware design, and book and magazine design. He grew up during the war and recalls an air-raid shelter next to which there was a large water tank in which goldfish swam. When incendiary bombs rained down from American planes, the goldfish gleamed in the intense light of the explosions. Tanaami says the sight made him more thrilled than fearful, and that such memories inspire the bizarre imagery and vivid colors of his signature psychedelic style.
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Modern Woman: Finnish Women Artists

18 June - 23 September 2019
The National Museum of Western Art
(Tokyo)
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Commemorating a century of Finnish-Japanese relations, this is an intriguing selection of paintings, prints, sculptures and sketches by female artists, mostly of the late 19th and early 20th century, from the collection of Helsinki's Ateneum, part of the Finnish National Gallery. There are portraits of mothers, children and other family members, landscapes and depictions of daily life, but no large works on historic or heroic themes. One recalls that this was also true of the female Impressionist painters of the preceding era: they hewed close to home in their choices of motif. Even in a progressive country like Finland, it seems women's horizons were still constrained in those days.
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Matsukata Collection
11 June - 23 September 2019
The National Museum of Western Art
(Tokyo)
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The museum's vaunted Matsukata Collection tends to be associated with Impressionist art, but this show included a remarkable number of war paintings, particularly of battles at sea. Then again, Kojiro Matsukata (1866-1950) himself was the president of Kawasaki Shipbuilding Co., so this shouldn't be too surprising. Indeed, when Matsukata visited Europe during the First World War, the first work he purchased was a painting of a shipyard by Frank Brangwyn, who would later become his closest collaborator in art acquisition.
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Archives: Bauhaus
28 June - 23 September 2019
Atelier Muji Ginza
(Tokyo)
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Marking this year's 100th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus, Muji's exhibition focuses mainly on the brilliant work of designer Marianne Brandt in the school's metal workshop. However, it also mixes and matches Bauhaus works with Muji's own products. Some exhibits place items of similar structure and shape side by side, while others display household products that share an emphasis on simplicity of materials, form, and function. The implicit message is that Muji is in some sense "the Bauhaus of today," or at least its aesthetic heir in the marketplace.
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Josh Sperling: Summertime
3 July - 10 August 2019
Perrotin Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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Arc- and wave-shaped canvases coated in solid pastel colors float across four gallery walls as well as three sides of a large square pillar. The first association that comes to mind is wriggly worms. More seriously, though, these could be popified parodies of shaped-canvas art, or a variation on relief painting that treats the entire wall as a canvas. Sperling uses traditional picture construction methods to produce what might be called works of industrial art that reference, relativize, and eviscerate the history of art.
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Candida Hofer: The Large and The Small - The Still and The Moving
8 June - 3 August 2019
Yuka Tsuruno Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Hofer studied photography with Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Dusseldorf Art Academy. In this solo exhibition she presents her renowned series depicting libraries and theaters, as well as some more recent abstract works. The most impressive thing about her library portraits is their subject matter -- the palatial, ornately furnished libraries of Europe. While one cannot quite make out the lettering on the spines of the thousands of books on the shelves, the sheer quantity of visual information in these images overwhelms the eye.
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Zheng Bo: Dao is in Weeds
1 June - 15 July 2019
Kyoto City University of Arts ļ¼ KCUA
(Kyoto)
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In this solo show the Beijing-born, Hong Kong-based artist used "weeds" as a metaphor for persecuted communities, sexual minorities, colonized countries and other marginalized groups. Unfortunately, portions of his video works were blacked out, with only the soundtrack audible, accompanied by the words "due to Japanese legal restrictions on sexual expression." His objective here appears to be less about displaying "liberated" content than about providing a forum for discussion by disclosing the process through which such expressions are regulated.
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Loewe Foundation Craft Prize

26 June - 22 July 2019

Sogetsu Plaza
(Tokyo)
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This is the third iteration of the prize established by the Madrid-based Loewe Foundation in 2016 with the objective of encouraging creators in the "applied arts" who prioritize quality materials, superior craftsmanship, and artistic values. The show was a confirmation that this trend has become a worldwide phenomenon. Handicrafts exude a special warmth and attention to detail, as well as a daring and passion found only in works created by the human hand. In the best work the line between craft and art disappears.
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Dainippon Type Organization Exhibition
20 April - 30 June 2019
Machida Museum of Literature, Kotoba Land
(Tokyo)
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Since its founding in 1993, the two-man unit Dainippon Type Organization has pursued some very unique activities in the world of typography. In their hands distinctions break down between hiragana, katakana, kanji, numerals, and letters of the alphabet as they deconstruct typefaces and transform them into new symbols. We are reminded that the Japanese writing system itself is unique in its use of all these different character sets. That versatility is what makes the freeform conceptions of Dainippon Type possible.
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