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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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Shigeo Toya: Body of the Gaze
21 September - 19 October 2019
ShugoArts
(Tokyo)
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Nine wooden sculptures that resemble large boulders sit on the floor of the front gallery, their surfaces etched in zigzag patterns that Toya (b. 1947) created with a chainsaw. Our gaze follows these cuts, so that the works in effect emerge as an accumulation of sightlines -- the "body of the gaze" alluded to by the exhibition title. This appears to be at least one of the veteran sculptor's answers to the fundamental question he has always pursued in his work: What is sculpture?
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Bauhaus: Experiments
21 October - 22 November 2019
Tokyo College of Photography Galleries
(Kanagawa)
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Amid the many events commemorating the centenary of the birth of Bauhaus, this exhibition is particularly deserving of attention. Of special note is the 7 EXPERIMENTS show in the fourth-floor gallery, which introduces an array of works pushing the expressive envelope in the spirit of the college's stated ambition to serve as a "Bauhaus of photographic education." One hopes these artists will continue with experiments that treat Bauhaus as an inspiration for the future, not merely a legacy from the past.
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10 Year Anniversary Exhibition

18 September - 19 October 2019
Zen Foto Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Opened by Mark Pearson in Shibuya in 2009, then relocated to Roppongi in 2011, Zen Foto has always functioned as a space where the proprietor seeks to realize his personal ideals, not merely a venue for buying and selling photographs and photo books. Consequently the shows here have featured a strong cast of highly individualistic artists. For this 10th-anniversary retrospective, the walls were lined with the 130-plus photo collections published by the gallery to date.
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CAF Award 2019
1 - 6 October 2019
Hillside Forum
(Tokyo)
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This was the sixth award event sponsored by the Contemporary Art Foundation, which encourages submissions from students at high schools, universities and art schools throughout Japan. The winner of the top prize receives 1 million yen and a solo show. This finalists' exhibition included several impressive works. Among the more entertaining were a contraption by Koichio Azuma that rotates an entire bicycle, rather than just the wheels, and top prizewinner Keita Sakai's installation of 50 cheap clothes hangers twisted into shapes that each held a single egg (the title, Inochi-gake, roughly translates as "life hanging in the balance).
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From the Cave
1 October - 24 November 2019
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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A group offering of work by Ken Kitano, Lieko Shiga, Fiona Tan, Osamu James Nakagawa, and Gerhard Richter sounds like it might be a bit too diffuse, but these images went remarkably well together. Though they did not directly address the stated theme of "the use of a 'cave' as a motif to explore the origins of our cognition," the works afforded viewers the pleasurable sensation of being present when the photographers and artists gave birth to these images.
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Takashi Kuraya: Alice, Are You Sleeping?
6 - 30 October 2019
Hasu no Hana
(Tokyo)
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When the gallery moved last year to a vacated house in Togoshi, Shinagawa-ku, it was found that the previous occupant had left behind a houseful of personal belongings. While helping the gallery dispose of these objects, photographer Kuraya happened upon a photo of a cat named Alice, a pet kept by the former resident. This sparked the creation of a unique installation that brought together objects that explore not so much the subject of the photo as the process by which it came to be preserved as a medium of memory.
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Stephan Balkenhol
7 September - 5 October 2019
Tomio Koyama Gallery
(Tokyo)
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German sculptor Balkenhol makes realistic human figures, but in a most idiosyncratic manner. For one thing, he carves them, base and all, from a single block of wood -- and the base is often much larger than the sculpture atop it. He prefers to leave his works looking unfinished, with a rough, burred surface. His figures are substantially smaller than life-size. They are also conspicuously lacking in distinctive physical characteristics or facial expressions. Finally, he likes to paint their surfaces. As this recent show demonstrated, Balkenhol thus observes certain traditions of sculpture even as he toys with them.
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Saki Kiritsuki: Outotsu ni Dekoboko
12 - 27 October 2019
Gallery Suujin
(Kyoto)
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After printing from a woodblock, Kiritsuki adds to the carving and prints again, repeating this process until she has produced as many as nine different woodcuts. As one traces the work's evolution from print to print, the first black impression, consisting of little more than the wood grain, gives way to an indistinct, fragmented image that gradually expands like a plant pushing out roots and leaves, with various motifs intertwining until they reach a saturation point. Kiritsuki's concept provides viewers with a way to appreciate the dynamic process of picture-making over time.
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Architect of Tokyo Station, Tatsuno Kingo and His Relationship with Art

2 - 24 November 2019

Tokyo Station Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Tatsuno (1854-1919) was an ambitious architect who articulated his desire to design three iconic structures of modernizing Japan: the Bank of Japan, Tokyo Station, and the National Diet Building. He lived to design the first two (in 1896 and 1914), but not the third. This exhibition, in the station's own gallery, introduced some 20 of his blueprints for the terminal. They are revealing -- for example, the large number of waiting rooms shows how important that function was for railway stations. This was an edifying look at one of the pioneering giants of modern Japanese architecture.
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Okayama Art Summit 2019: If the Snake
27 September - 24 November 2019
Former Uchisange Elementary School and elsewhere
(Okayama)
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An international exhibition of contemporary art held in Okayama City every three years, Okayama Art Summit is compact and easy to stroll around. This year it featured so many artists from overseas that it did not feel like a domestic event -- which was just fine. The work of French collaborators Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni transformed the classrooms in the former Uchisange Elementary School into an unnervingly eerie space.
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