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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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image image 3 February 2020
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The Curves of Bauhaus
15 November 2019 - 19 March 2020
Misawa Bauhaus Collection
(Tokyo)
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Last year marked the centenary of the birth of Bauhaus. This show looks at the motif of "curves" in the work of three Bauhaus-related designers -- Herbert Bayer, Marcel Lajos Breuer, and Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Curves might seem like an odd focus given the strong association of the school with straight lines and geometric forms, but the same orderly rigor prevails in all these works. The three men also shared long careers in design after studying at Bauhaus, and their work represents the fruition of founder Walter Gropius’s vision.
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Secret Source of Inspiration: Designers' Hidden Sketches and Mockups
22 November 2019 - 8 March 2020
21_21 Design Sight Gallery
(Tokyo)
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A presentation of drawings, plans, and models by 26 members of the Japan Design Committee -- not just designers but also architects, woodcraft artists, and design critics. Though ostensibly graphic documentations of their creative efforts, many of the exhibits consist of memos or scribbled notes. Designers start out sketching their ideas in different ways that reveal their personalities, but those at the top of the field all seem to be driven to draw constantly as they try to get their surging ideas down on paper.
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Let’s Eat! This Is a Fermentation Paradise

24 January 2020 - undecided
Uplink Kichijoji
(Tokyo)
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There is a close link between fermentation and organic farming. This quirky film, which dubs itself a "gut entertainment documentary," introduces organic farmers, a nursery school that practices "satoyama (fields and woods) childcare," and Akinori Kimura, famed as the author of the book Kiseki no ringo (Miracle Apples). Live footage is interspersed with animations showing how microbes connect people and farmland via the food we eat. Our ability to coexist intimately with microbes has long been one of the secrets to sustainability.
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Wrapping, Opening: Book-paper-scissors
14 December 2019 - 24 January 2020
Image Forum
(Tokyo)
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A documentary about book designer Nobuyoshi Kikuchi, who has worked on some 15,000 titles. Astonishingly, book design remains an entirely manual craft -- really an art -- even today. The continuing demand for books printed on paper no doubt owes much to the appeal of objects that stimulate the senses with their texture, heft, and smell, not to mention the pleasure of turning the pages with one’s fingers.
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NASCA Since 1994
7 - 14 December 2019
Zig House
(Tokyo)
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Held in the home of architect Nobuaki Furuya, this exhibition about the design firm Studio NASCA gave visitors a chance to see Zig House, on which Furuya and the studio collaborated. In 2001 Zig House and its companion Zag House, two connected L-shaped structures, were built on the lot where Furuya’s childhood home stood (Zig for his parents and Zag for Furuya himself). Zig House offered an exhibit of panels and models featuring Studio NASCA projects. The layout of the house made a perfect setting for the open style of the show.
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What’s Karl Gerstner? Thinking in Motion
28 November 2019 - 18 January 2020
Ginza Graphic Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Karl Gerstner (1930-2017) was a pioneer of the International Typographic Style of graphic design that was developed in Switzerland in the 1950s. A salient feature of the style is the use of typography not just in text but as a primary design element. The 25 advertisements that make up part of this show are particularly striking. Gerstner’s designs are bold and free, with sans-serif type scattered among large-size collages of cutout shadow photographs.
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Umeda Tetsuya: On the Origin of Voices
2 November 2019 - 13 January 2020
Fukuoka Art Museum
(Fukuoka)
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Umeda is known for installations and audience-participation performances that combine the use of physical phenomena like sound, light and gravity with the properties of the venue. This was his first solo show in a museum. On the Origin engaged visitors by having them push a movable display partition to experience "something" occurring in the white-cube space to the rear. Other works scattered through the museum included objects rising and falling with the movement of weights of water, and blinking lights projected onto the wall like revolving planets.
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tupera tupera’s Picture Book World for You, Me, and Everyone
23 November - 25 December 2019
Museum Eki Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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A showcase of work by tupera tupera, a unit consisting of Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa that produces popular picture books. Panda Bathhouse introduces a family of anthropomorphic pandas going to a public bath. In the changing room, they remove all the black parts of their bodies like so many clothes, revealing their bodies to be all white underneath. Such whimsy is found throughout the pair’s works; their ability to turn the absurdest flights of fancy into successful books for kids is to be envied.
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Shelf: AN UND AUS | On and Off

12 - 15 December 2019

Theatre E9 Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig was commissioned in 2013 by the New National Theatre to write a play about the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Accident of 2011. The result is a highly abstract work full of poetic and allegorical imagery that hardly mentions the disasters at all. More than just a "play inspired by an earthquake and nuclear disaster," this production by Theatre Company Shelf brilliantly scrutinized the very act of telling a story.
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Tamami Iinuma Solo Exhibition: Japan in der DDR
9 November - 14 December 2019
Kana Kawanishi Photography
(Tokyo)
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Iinuma researched three hotels built by the same Japanese construction company in three cities in the former East Germany -- Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin -- and published her photographs and other materials from the project in a five-chapter book. This show introduced Chapter 4, "The Memory That Was Deleted Twice." A 1979 incident, in which someone stole film inside a camera (but not the camera) from the contractor’s office, inspired her to "attempt to retrieve the stolen memories" by snapping pictures of the environs of the Berlin Grand Hotel with her own 35-mm camera.
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