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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.

Note: Many museums in Japan are closed until mid-March as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus. Before visiting, please check with the museum.

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The Story of Two Women: Miyako and Chihiro

1 November 2019 - 31 January 2020
Chihiro Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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When photographer Miyako Ishiuchi adopted both her mother's birth names at age 28, perhaps it reflected a desire to carry out the things her mother had left undone or could not do. The series Mother's, which she began around the time of her mother's death in 2000, portrays the burn scars on her mother's skin, her underwear, her lipstick, her shoes. The impetus for this show was Ishiuchi's discovery that her mother and Chihiro Iwasaki, the celebrated picture-book author, were almost the same age. These meticulously recorded images of the two women's clothes and accessories speak of lives lived as fully as they could in an era when the status of women in Japan was even lower than it is now.
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HER/HISTORY
17 - 28 January 2020
Kishiwada Jisen Kaikan
(Osaka)
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A group exhibition curated by artist Tomoko Inagaki on the theme of history. As the appending of "HER" to the all-caps "HISTORY" suggests, the show explores how the dominant historical narrative of men, power, and forces for uniformity can be rewritten from a more peripheral, pluralist perspective. The works on display quietly hint at an alternative narrative mode that liberates one's point of view as opposed to asking how to deal with negative memories.
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Zokei Da Vinci Project
5 - 26 January 2020
Hillside Forum
(Tokyo)
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Last year was the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. This collaborative project by students and teachers in the painting, sculpture, design and film departments of Tokyo Zokei University was an attempt to grasp the multifaceted genius of this one individual. The highlight was a display of 16 of Leonardo's paintings, including unfinished works. Damaged works were restored close to their original form, and incomplete works were completed. Not one of these was the real thing, nor were the changes made with paint and brush -- everything was a virtual reproduction.
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Made In Tokyo: Architecture and Living 1964/2020
11 October 2019 - 26 January 2020
Japan Society
(New York)
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Curated and designed by the architectural firm Atelier Bow-Wow, which surveys Tokyo's hybrid architecture in its "Made in Tokyo" project, this show compared representative structures from the eras of the two Tokyo Olympics, past and present. Apertures cut in the exhibit walls afforded simultaneous views of the two periods, with selected works categorized by building type and genre.
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Dumb Type: Actions + Reflections
16 November 2019 - 16 February 2020
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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A solo show by Dumb Type, one of Japan's best-known multimedia artist collectives. Through innovative visual language and concepts they have pioneered, both domestically and globally, the expression of a "post-human" vision of a new relationship between the digital and the physical.
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Close-up Universe: Contemporary Japanese Photography vol. 16
30 November 2019 - 26 January 2020
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The 16th installment of TOP's long-term series features six young photographers: Jun Fujiyasu, Sayuki Inoue, Harumichi Saito, Masaru Aikawa, Yuji Hamada, and Lyota Yagi. The theme of "Close-up Universe" refers to the fact that today we can enjoy views of the world entirely different from the ones we see with the naked eye. The realities we see trigger sensations of both intimacy and unfamiliarity. Through their works, these six artists express the feelings of surprise and wonderment that can arise when photographing subjects supposedly familiar to us.
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Kenjiro Okazaki: Retrospective Strata

23 November 2019 - 24 February 2020

Toyota Municipal Museum of Art
(Aichi)
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Okazaki (b. 1955) is a protean artist who has created work on the cutting edge of every conceivable genre: sculpture, painting, video, media art, architecture, textiles, stage design, picture books, tiles, and drawings by robot. To quote from the museum blurb for the retrospective: "Every time we see Okazaki's work, the stratum of space we exist in shifts continuously, while past, present, and future also become altered as if we were stepping up and down the strata of time."
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44th Ina Nobuo Award: Ai Iwane, "KIPUKA"
16 - 22 January 2020
The Gallery Osaka, Nikon Plaza
(Osaka)
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Tokyo-born photographer Iwane has been exploring connections between the experience of prewar Japanese emigrants to Hawaii and that of Fukushima, their place of origin. Where the former were uprooted by the government's emigration policy a century ago, more recent Fukushimans were forced from their homes by nuclear disaster. KIPUKA is a photo collection based on Iwane's decade of research centered around the Bon dance, a custom shared by the two communities. Rather than analyze this relationship, the exhibit portrays it in seamless, cyclical fashion, evoking by extension the cycle of life and death.
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KAAT Dance Series 2019: Nippon - Cha! Cha! Cha!
10 - 19 January 2020
Kanagawa Arts Theatre (KAAT)
(Kanagawa)
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The late great playwright Koharu Kisaragi's tour-de-force Nippon - Cha! Cha! Cha! takes place in Japan just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, not yet 20 years since the war's end. It premiered in 1988, another 24 years later, just before Japan's economic bubble burst. From war to Olympics to bubble and back to Olympics, we and the play seem to have come full circle. Perhaps it is the task of theatre to revive plays precisely because history repeats itself. In a work rich with piercing irony, the characters are named after successive prime ministers in postwar Japan.
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Toyomi Hoshina Retirement Memorial Exhibition: SUI-TEN
7 - 19 January 2020
The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts
(Tokyo)
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The "memorial" in the title notwithstanding, artist Hoshina is alive and well, albeit retired from his position as a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts. Sui-ten is apparently a neologism coined by the naturalist Kumagusu Minakata, meaning a point of aggregation or intersection by diverse things or events. Ranging from photos of his earliest performances and outdoor installations to a reenactment of work he submitted to the Paris Biennale and his recent well- and house-shaped pieces, the exhibition showcased the diversity of Hoshina's oeuvre.
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