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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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Kaoru Minamino
11 - 30 September 2017
Gallery Haku Kuro
(Osaka)
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Minamino creates spherical ceramic objects. Due to the distortion and shrinkage caused by the firing process, ceramics don't readily lend themselves to geometric forms -- yet by purposely choosing ceramics as his medium, Minamino is able to produce works with a texture, heft, and presence not found in other materials. In this show he enhanced the impact by placing an assemblage of identically shaped objects in the middle of a dark, black-painted room and illuminating it with a spotlight.
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Atsushi Hashimoto: Universe Sculptures
12 - 24 September 2017
Art Space Kan
(Kyoto)
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Hashimoto creates three-dimensional art from diverse materials, which he selects for optimal effect without any excess of sentiment. This show presented four series of his works. Two of them, Blood Vessel and Flower, reflect an interest in blood vessels and the brain inspired by his own bout with cerebrovascular disease.
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The Wonders of Urushi: 12,000-Year History of People and Lacquer in Japan

11 July - 3 September 2017
National Museum of Japanese History
(Chiba)
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A comprehensive look at Japan's long and intimate relationship with lacquer, from the plant to the coating material, to lacquerware as craft and art, to future applications. Bringing together the fruits of research on lacquer in the fields of archaeology, art history, literature, ethnology, botany, and analytical chemistry, the show is one of those tours de force of interdisciplinary scholarship for which the museum is admired.
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Expressive Power of Life: Kiyoshi Yamashita and Friends
2 September - 1 October 2017
Kawasaki City Museum
(Kanagawa)
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Next year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of Yawata Gakuen, a school for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities where a number of students blossomed into artists under its tutelage. This show introduces works by its most famous alumnus, Kiyoshi Yamashita (1922-71), as well as by three of his schoolmates, all of whom died young: Kenji Ishikawa (1926-52), Yuichi Numa (1925-43), and Shigehiro Noda (1925-45).
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Enrico Isamu Oyama: Found Object
1 - 30 September 2017
Courtyard Hiroo
(Tokyo)
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In these 15 works, Oyama has painted with graffiti-like strokes over old prints and photographs he found in New York antique shops. Oyama's additions show respect for the original works, never sullying or hiding their motifs, which include flowers, people, buildings, and landscapes. Unlike Banksy, Oyama's graffiti does not alter meaning, but appears to be a spontaneous response to the original image.
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Mina Tabuchi: FOREST
8 - 26 September 2017
B Gallery
(Tokyo)
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In 2012, when she was 23, Tabuchi moved to a cabin in the woods north of Karuizawa and spent a year using a camera to chronicle the astonishing transformations a forest undergoes month by month. The resulting photo collection, into the forest, heralded her debut as an innovator in the ranks of nature photographers. Accompanied by an installation of fallen forest leaves, this latest exhibition demonstrated how her craft has evolved since then.
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Shibuyajizai: Infinity, or Self-Territory
29 July - 17 September 2017
Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS) Shibuya
(Tokyo)
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Open since 2005, Tokyo Wonder Site Shibuya was reincarnated in October as a gallery run by the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. This final TWS show featured a trio of artists: Mari Ohno, Nao Nishihara, and Ishu Han. All share an interest in using their own bodies as a frame of reference for the world and a means of expanding their domain of expression beyond the confines of "art." Their work forces us to reconsider the position of the self in society.
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Film Director Makoto Sato's Niigata
15 September - 15 October 2017
Sakyukan
(Niigata)
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Ten years have passed since the death at age 60 of Makoto Sato, whose legacy includes several works regarded as masterpieces of Japanese documentary filmmaking. His work continues to enjoy renewed appreciation today; this recent project examined his close relationship with Niigata prefecture, where he filmed the acclaimed Living on the River Agano.
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Kazutomo Tashiro: Ulleong-do

5 - 24 September 2017

photographers' gallery / Kula Photo Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Ulleung-do is a Korean island often mentioned in the context of the territorial dispute over the islets known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan that lie just to the east. Photographer Tashiro's approach is to step away from politics and focus on the people living on the island. These images achieve a sublime balance between his subjects and their environment, but the tension infusing the atmosphere adds a texture not found in his previous work.
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Kenshichi Heshiki: Okinawa, My Love
4 September - 29 October 2017
Shadai Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Photos by Heshiki (1948-2009) have the look of snapshots taken by casually aiming the camera at whatever is in front of it. But captions like "Child bringing an ashtray to a customer" testify to the Okinawa-born photographer's profound contemplation of the realities of the island and the conditions under which its residents live, and some of his images evince a critical, even acerbic point of view. This exhibition of 180 monochrome prints on the theme of his homeland whetted the reviewer's appetite for a more thorough consideration of his oeuvre.
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