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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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Ken Matsubara: Spring Steps
18 May - 13 June 2018
Loko Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Having steadily output works of still photography since the 1980s, in the 2000s Matsubara shifted his focus to video installations. His pieces, on the theme of the repetition, circulation and resonance of memory, have earned him a larger following in Europe and North America than in his homeland. The inspiration for this recent exhibition was a single photo of a man and woman enjoying social dancing at a prewar dance hall in Yokohama. The resulting series of dance-motif works testifies to Matsubara's immense talent for weaving together an experience that stimulates the visual, aural, and other senses.
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Chihiro Murata: Internal works / Crossing borders
15 June - 1 July 2018
Gallery PARC
(Kyoto)
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In Japanese, the transitive and intransitive forms of the verb "dye" are two different words: someru and somaru. The former denotes a technique, the latter a physical phenomenon. One is an activity that can be controlled or adjusted; the other is determined by such natural conditions as absorption, gravity, molecular structure, humidity and temperature. In this exhibition Murata explores the possibilities of dyeing at the borderline between its passive and active forms through works that catch the eye with their visual renderings of such boundaries in exquisitely translucent colors.
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Yusuke Hishida: border | korea

27 May - 24 June 2018
Kanzan Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Hishida has earned accolades for his collection of paired photographs taken in North and South Korea respectively. Since 2009 he has visited the North seven times and the South more than ten. But his most significant work to date may be a video project, Moving Portraits, which documents the filming of his models in the two Koreas. The moving pictures accentuate the passage of time before and after the shooting of the still images, imparting a visceral sense of the reality of the models' environments.
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Keiichi Tahara: Sens de Lumière
1 - 10 June 2018
Pola Museum Annex
(Tokyo)
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This retrospective of work from the 1980s and 1990s by photographer Tahara, who died in 2017 at age 65, features his Torso series, in which he printed images of statues on fabric, limestone and other materials. During this period Tahara was entranced by the beauty of light shining on marble statuary and struggled to replicate the visual experience in photographs. The upshot, an attempt to blend traditional Japanese craftsmanship with the aesthetics of Western sculpture, was not always successful, at least judging by the relative weak impact of these images compared to his other work.
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Katsuhiro Saiki: Non-Architectural Photographs
23 May - 17 June 2018
Ginza Retro Gallery Musee
(Tokyo)
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Saiki's three-dimensional works are composed of photographs, generally of buildings, that have been cut, pasted, folded or otherwise modified in accordance with the structure of the original subject. By combining multiple exposures or photos to create these solid objects, he reveals an unforeseen compatibility or commonality between the two seemingly polar-opposite genres of photography and abstract art. The venue was a perfect match: a Ginza gallery housed in a retro brick building completed in 1932.
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Hideo Kobayashi: Interrupted Places / trace
8 June - 7 July 2018
Emon Photo Gallery
(Tokyo)
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The two series introduced here consist of new prints of earlier works by photographer Kobayashi, offering a fresh opportunity to appreciate their evocative power. In Interrupted Places he encloses spaces in conjoined concrete panels, isolating them from their surroundings. In trace he illuminates woods or thickets with uniform strobe light, creating temporary fictive spaces. Both concepts serve to reverse, or toggle between, the quotidian and the non-quotidian and are executed with flawless technique. It would be nice to see these works paired with the artist's more recent output in a larger venue.
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Nagako Kishida: Tartans
12 - 23 June 2018
Galerie16
(Kyoto)
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The eighth installment of a Scottish tartan-inspired series launched by Kishida in 2010. Though she works with a painting knife and masking tape instead of a brush, her method of building up successive thin layers of color is truly painterly. The gridlike compositions have the rigor of geometric abstract art, as if mimicking the tropes of modernist painting. One might say Kishida is juxtaposing several painting traditions, then mixing them with elements from photography and textile art.
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Kazuto Miura: todomaru matter
13 - 30 June 2018
Gallery Yocto
(Tokyo)
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Miura (b. 1946) used a digital camera to snap the 30 images in his new series, "todomaru [stopped] matter." For a veteran who had always worked with silver halide film and photographic paper, the switch to digital must have been no simple thing. Yet he manages to retain his trademark snapshot style, applying the experience gleaned from years of shooting urban streetscapes as he records every scene with close attention to the lay of the land and the play of the light. Nor does the quality of his work suffer as he alters his format and reduces the color saturation to compensate for the change from monochrome silver halide to color digital printing.
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Nobuo Shimose: jamais vu

30 May - 5 June 2018

Nikon Salon Ginza
(Tokyo)
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The opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu is the sensation of seeing something familiar as if for the first time. In the course of photographing small animals and other familiar natural conditions over the years, Shimose began to experience jamais vu and decided to record it in a photo series. This presentation of 55 prints was the first installment. The emphasis is on images of plant life, such as the eerily fauna-like Chinese cucumber flower, which he shot in moonlight. However, Shimose evidently intends not to stop there, and one looks forward to his next exhibition in the series.
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Yoko Ikeda: Crystalline
8 June - 7 July 2018
Gallery Art Unlimited
(Tokyo)
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In January this year, photographer Ikeda saw an exhibition of classical European paintings and was taken with the collective approach to their display. In an attempt to reproduce that powerful visual effect in her recent solo show, she arranged 18 prints of diverse sizes on the gallery's largest wall in a "crystalline" layout. The works in fact do not have the sharp outlines of mineral structures; their edges are soft and organic. The careful composition of the overall installation, in which frame colors and materials vary with each photograph, suggests a strong impulse on the part of the artist to set off in a new direction.
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