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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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Shingo Kanagawa: Long Time Span
27 January - 25 February 2018
Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino
(Kanagawa)
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In a series he has continued since 2008, photographer Kanagawa captures his father, a man given to frequent disappearances; in a related project he asks his father to snap his own picture every day. Since 2010 he has also photographed an aunt, his father's sister, who likewise vanished for reasons unknown and went missing for over 20 years. These are images with a mysterious gravitational pull that touch on the conundrum, "Why do humans do what they do?"
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Kosuke Ichikawa x Hiroh Kikai: Sprinkling A-side
8 February - 9 March 2018
Basement Ginza
(Tokyo)
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Ichikawa is known for intricately detailed pictures made by scorching paper with over 60 different types of incense. Until now he has worked mainly from visual images in his own memory, but the series exhibited here uses motifs inspired by portraits and scenery shot by photographer Kikai. Insofar as Ichikawa uses his own body as a camera to apply the photographic principle of reproducing an observed image as it is, his works may be closer in essence to photographs than to paintings.
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The Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Vision 2018: Mapping the Invisible

9 - 25 February 2018
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Of special note at this event was an exhibit of photographs of what appear to be fairies, taken with their father's camera between 1917 and 1920 by 16-year-old Elsie and 9-year-old Frances, two cousins living in the village of Cottingley in northern England. The famous author and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote an article asserting that the images were genuine. The mystery was, however, purportedly solved when Frances admitted in 1983 that they were faked. On display here were just a fraction of some 100 letters, notes, and photos related to the incident found in a bag. It would be nice to see an exhibition or book presenting the entire trove.
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Hisaya Kojima: Critical Point: True Colors of the Ghost
17 February - 10 March 2018
CAS
(Osaka)
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An installation of new work by Kojima, inspired, he says, by a photograph of the first nuclear test, which took place in New Mexico in 1945. The series of hemispherical forms leads us from the dome-like "nuclear umbrella" formed by the fireball, to a bomb shelter, to the miniature world of a snow globe. We consume such harmless souvenirs in the same manner as we do photographic images of the atomic bomb, i.e., as a kind of kitsch. A critique of that sensibility forms the core of this exhibition.
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Go Itami: Photocopy
13 February - 3 March 2018
The White
(Tokyo)
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Published in 2017 by edition.nord, Itami's ambitious self-made book photocopy was designed with the avowed aim of "critiquing the unquestioned browsing of books and acceptance of what one sees in them." This show employed a spatial composition that took the opposite approach of the book, an attempt that was arguably successful but lacked originality. What it needed was a framework that would establish a link for the viewer between the artist's concern with how photographs are displayed and the meaning (or lack of meaning) of the photographs.
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Arts Challenge 2018
14 - 25 February 2018
Aichi Arts Center
(Aichi)
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The Aichi Arts Center is currently in the midst of renovations, so this 10th iteration of the "Arts Challenge" showcase of contemporary art was held in what non-exhibition spaces were available. One consequence was a reduction in the number of exhibiting artists, which had the fortuitous side effect of narrowing them down to the cream of the crop. The constraints also demonstrated that the imaginative power of art can thrive in just about any venue, and challenged the artists to deal creatively with spaces at a remove from the usual white cubes.
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Yasunori Murayama: On a Moonless Moonlit Night
14 - 20 February 2018
Nikon Salon Ginza
(Tokyo)
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These 28 photos are fragments of urban landscapes. Murayama's methodology -- viewing the various layers that comprise a city through the medium of windows and mirrors -- is not particularly novel, but he evinces an assured point of view through his choice of positions and the composition of his images. This is solid, high-quality work, but the approach is one that can quickly become monotonous. Some experimenting with more dynamic shifts of perspective could lead to a broadening of his palette to include subjects in other countries, for instance.
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Keiko Nomura: Okinawa
7 February - 11 March 2018
Poetic Scape
(Tokyo)
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Since making her debut with the photo collection Deep South (Little More, 1999), Nomura has included images of Okinawa in nearly every one of her books. Her deep affinity for the island could be explained by her roots there on her mother's side, but that's surely not the only reason. It's also apparent that the tropical air, the contrast of intense sunlight and shadows, and the vibrant primary colors that flood the senses in Okinawa are also in sync with her photographic concerns.
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Nobuyoshi Araki: I, Photography

17 December 2017 - 25 March 2018

Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art
(Kagawa)
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Since the beginning of 2017 Araki (b. 1940), the grand old bad boy of Japanese photography, has held 21 exhibitions; this was the final one of the series. Boasting a mind-boggling 952 prints, it maintained Araki's policy of always including some new work in his shows. This was a sumptuous repast treating viewers to the best of the photographer's past, present, and future (!) output. There was a distinct air of Thanatos hanging over these works, but perhaps that was just a temporary swing of the pendulum, the tension between Thanatos and Eros being a key element of the photographer's oeuvre.
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Okanoue Toshiko Retrospective Exhibition: A Long Journey
20 January - 25 March 2018
The Museum of Art, Kochi
(Kochi)
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Viewing these 80 collage works by Kochi-born Okanoue (b. 1928), one is struck by the brilliance of the imagination and technique that went into her cutting and pasting of magazine illustrations. Just as conspicuous is her point of view -- a sharp scrutiny of and resistance to the realties of postwar life in Japan, particularly the status of women. Her images of battlefields turned to ruins hint at the repulsion she felt toward a war promoted and executed primarily by men. It could be argued that her work occupies a pioneering position in the history of Japanese feminism.
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