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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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Tokyo Art Book Fair 2019
12 - 15 July 2019
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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Launched by MOT in 2009, this book fair celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Some 300 publishers, galleries and artists, both domestic and foreign, filled the museum's Entrance Hall and second-basement Special Exhibitions Room. As usual the event was thronged every day, and the crowds made it difficult to actually browse the works on offer at leisure. My impression was that the fair has reached a certain saturation point; this 10th year may be an opportune time to reevaluate how it is run and how it utilizes the space available.
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Chikashi Kasai: Lazy Afternoon
12 - 28 July 2019
Jinbocho Gallery
(Tokyo)
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In a show consisting of 40 portraits of female models, not a single one was a nude, the genre that has been Kasai's calling card as a photographer. While some expectant visitors may have left disappointed, these images revealed more about the principles of Kasai's aesthetic outlook than his nudes do. The serene, somewhat reserved gaze of each subject gave eloquent expression to that model's particular charm, filling the gallery with a pleasantly invigorating air.
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Rina Mizuno: Without thinking, stopped

12 - 28 July 2019
Pola Museum Annex
(Tokyo)
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Just as the title suggests, Mizuno appears to aim for paintings that bring one to a sudden halt. In all her works, black and gray vortices whirl and billow across the canvas, while floral and rainbow patterns, vividly hued in the manner of Middle Eastern or Chinese art, appear in the gaps. Here and there bits of unpainted white canvas poke through as well. Complementing Mizuno's large paintings here were sumi-ink wall drawings that brought to mind the brushwork of Jakuchu or Shohaku.
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Ascending Art Annual Vol. 3: Song to Live, Struggles of the Soul
4 - 23 July 2019
Spiral
(Tokyo)
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The third in a series, this group exhibition featured three young female artists working in different media: Maki Ohkojima, Yurie Kawagoe, and Yuriko Sasaoka. Ohkojima filled a large multistory space with five whale-shaped works suspended from the ceiling. On leather backing affixed to the outline of a whale, she painted constellations, skeletons, debris and other elements that evoke the Earth's environment and the cycle of life. Corporate art spaces like Spiral are to be commended for their growing support of female artists, the less orthodox the better.
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Kyoko Sawanobori: Rondo
13 July - 3 August 2019
CAS
(Osaka)
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Through her performances, videos, and installations, Sawanobori explores issues of womanhood and the unconscious realms of memory and dream. This show revisited what may be her best-known work, the performance piece Honey, Beauty and Tasty, as well as introducing a more recent video installation. Through some very strategic choices, Honey, Beauty and Tasty is reinvented as a symbolic parody of a woman assiduously attending to (a man's) sexual pleasure, confronting the viewer with some pointed questions.
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31st Society of Photography Awards
22 - 28 July 2019
Place M
(Tokyo)
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This year the society awarded Hiroshi Nomura for his book CAMERAer: People Who Became Cameras and his photo exhibitions "NOIR" and "Selfie MANBU" and The dark and bright room of CAMERAer, as well as Issei Suda, who died this March, for his book Fragment of Everyday Life. It was a bit of a no-brainer to give the prize to Suda, who created his own inimitable photographic world, for his final work of color photography. But feting Nomura, whose book consists of four-panel manga strips, was a surprise move.
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Den Gai: Living, being here
23 July - 24 August 2019
Guardian Garden
(Tokyo)
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China-born photographer Den Gai won the Grand Prize at the 19th 1_WALL photo competition in 2018. This solo show at Guardian Garden, part of the prize, featured Den's photos of his hometown near Tianjin, a place of oil fields that once prospered along with the petroleum industry. Now, however, the decline of oil production imbues these scenes with an air of decay.
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Plans for Tokyo 2019: vol. 2 Sachiko Kazama
1 June - 13 July 2019
gallery αM
(Tokyo)
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Kazama is known as an anachro-analog artist who produces huge monochromatic woodblock-print monotypes. Plans for Tokyo 2019 is a series inspired by A Plan for Tokyo 1960, uber-architect Kenzo Tange's grandiose vision of a floating city in Tokyo Bay. In Kazama's presentation on the theme, the largest work is the 6.4-meter-long Dyslympics 2680, which satirizes the opening ceremony for next year's Tokyo Olympics (2680 is Japanese imperial-era reckoning for 2020). In this nearly symmetrical rendering of a monstrous stadium, the orderly procession of people at the foot of the stands looks like a parade of ants.
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Lily Shu: Dyed My Hair Blond, Burnt Dark at Sea

19 July - 9 August 2019

Emon Photo Gallery
(Tokyo)
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China-born photographers residing in Japan are turning out some fine work these days. Born in Harbin, Lily Shu studied in England, then moved to Japan, completing her studies at Tokyo University of the Arts this year. Along the way she has already won several competitions. An articulator of concerns clearly different from those of most Japanese photographers, Shu has the potential to build on her experience living in Japan to become one of a new breed of truly international photographers. 
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The end of company: Boardgame and On the Origin of Species
29 May - 9 June 2019
Komaba Agora Theater
(Tokyo)
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This was the second, "expanded" version of a play that, in its "basic" version, depicted the changes that occur in the relationships among four characters: a man immersed in developing a new board game, his younger sister (with whom he appears to have an incestuous relationship), a female cohabitant (who may or may not be his lover), and a woman who shows up declaring herself to be a "board game fairy." With fine-tuning of the new board game and of relations in this small community proceeding in parallel, the work reexamines the rules by which male-female relationships are established in families, or not-quite-families.
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