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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 15 May 2017
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Stone City Utsunomiya: The Modern Architecture and Regional Culture of Oya Stone
8 January - 5 March 2017
Utsunomiya Museum of Art
(Tochigi)
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Utsunomiya, the capital of Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, has long been known as the source of Oya stone, a soft volcanic tuff used as a construction material for walls, buildings (including Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel), and train station platforms. This show commemorated two anniversaries -- the museum's 20th and the city's 120th -- by paying tribute to both the artistic and industrial applications of the versatile stone, which played a still-visible role in Japan's modernization.
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Framed Japanese-style Paintings
25 February - 2 April 2017
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts
(Tochigi)
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Lately the museum has been taking an innovative approach to categorizing and presenting works in its possession. Following up on exhibitions highlighting those in screen and scroll (both horizontal and vertical) formats, this one explores the use of the frame to support Japanese paintings in the modern era. Of particular note is the trend in recent years for framing to evolve and diversify in tandem with changes in the art itself.
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The Works of Yasuji Hanamori: A Designer's Hand, an Editor's Eye

11 February - 9 April 2017
Setagaya Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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An exhaustive examination of the life and work of Hanamori (1911-78), famed as the founder and editor of the popular postwar magazine Kurashi no techo (Living Handbook). The 750 items on display range from manuscripts and photos, to the cover illustrations the editor himself drew, to samples of the products used in the publication's signature "Product Tests," to Hanamori's college-era watercolors and newspaper articles.
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Shigeru Izumi: How to Make a Handsome Painting
27 January - 26 March 2017
The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
(Wakayama)
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Some 170 paintings and appurtenant materials offer a thorough look at the work of Izumi (1922-95), a leading figure in postwar Kansai art. One thing the exhibition demonstrates is that, even as Izumi deliberately changed his painting techniques over the years, there was a solid strand of consistency and continuity running through his career. Indeed, the subtitle deftly captures the intent that imbued his entire oeuvre.
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Toshiaki Yamaoka: GUTIC i was born
10 - 26 March 2017
Gallery PARC
(Kyoto)
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Some years ago Yamaoka coined the term GUTIC to describe "certain forms that seem to exist yet do not," through which he seeks to make viewers conscious of the countless possibilities that arise and vanish in the process of creation. This show achieved that objective with a mix of finished tableaux, large-scale drawings, and videos recording the process of repeatedly drawing, then erasing lines on paper. The realization that every work of art is just one of an infinite number of possible outcomes can be transformative.
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Mayo Koide: Things to Be Born
10 March - 9 April 2017
A-Lab
(Hyogo)
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Koide's latest exhibition, a combination of installation and poetry, leaves an impression much like that of an echo. Though physical objects occupy the gallery space, they seem ephemeral, like the distilled essence of something no longer there. Known for her poetic modes of expression, Koide here leaves us with a poignant, lingering memory.
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Shigene Kanamaru: Era of New Photography 1926-1945
18 February - 3 March 2017
Nihon University College of Art
(Tokyo)
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One of the pioneers of advertising photography in this country, Kanamaru not only headed the Japan Advertising Photographers' Association but was also a prominent postwar photography educator. Commemorating the 40th anniversary of his death, the show focused on work from the 1920s into the '40s, with 100-some prints and documents testifying to his leading role in the modernist New Photography movement of the '30s.
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Yoko Kusano: Everything Is Temporary
1 - 13 March 2017
QUIET NOISE arts and break
(Tokyo)
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This solo show took place in tandem with the publication of Kusano's photo collection by the same title. Exhibited in a skillfully composed installation, the images amply, but not excessively, reflected the sentiment of the title. However, they also seem confined to the commonplace and conventional. One wishes the artist would make an effort to expand her expressive horizons and articulate more incisively what she wants to convey.
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Tokuko Ushioda: BIBLIOTHECA

8 March - 28 April 2017

PGI
(Tokyo)
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A presentation of some 25 monochrome prints from Ushioda's (b. 1940) long-continuing series of photographs of books. Shot with a 6 x 6 format camera, the images eloquently testify to the power and presence of the book as object. They also lovingly yet dispassionately record the sometimes startling transformations these bundles of paper and leather undergo over the years.
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Nodoka Odawara: Statumania
4 - 19 March 2017
Artzone
(Kyoto)
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Through her visual discourse on the relationship between statues and pedestals, between monuments and the places they are mounted and sometimes later removed from, Odawara engages in an incisive critique of the potential direction of postwar Japan. Here she introduced two works -- one a long-term project inspired by the huge inverted arrow that once pointed to the A-bomb epicenter in Nagasaki, the other a recent abstraction described as an "empty pedestal."
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