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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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Mitsugu Ohnishi: Newcoast
2 November - 22 December 2016
Photo Gallery International (PGI)
(Tokyo)
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Since the 1980s, Ohnishi has clearly been influenced by the New American Color photographers of preceding decades; like them he utilizes the brilliant sheen and expressive detail of color photography to chronicle the ever-changing social landscape of his homeland. Three or more decades later, we can see that those works contained a wealth of guideposts to the deepest strata of their times.
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Yuna Tsuru: Living like Water, Living with Water
12 - 27 November 2016
ex-chamber museum
(Tokyo)
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Evidently inspired by John Everett Millais's Ophelia, these are all paintings of women in water. Though they belong to the photorealist genre, they are not mere mechanical tracings of photographs. Rather they retain, in the best sense, an aura of dreamy unreality. The artist's devotion to a particular motif is also refreshing.
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Tatsuo Kawaguchi: Standing in Time

8 October - 26 November 2016
Kawaguchi Art Gallery ATLIA
(Saitama)
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Among the ranks of veteran contemporary artists who have been active since the sixties, Kawaguchi surely rates as one of the most vigorously productive. The iron boxes that make up his celebrated DARK BOX series are cast at a foundry here in the city of Kawaguchi, just north of Tokyo. The sculptor created the first of these works, which purport to encase darkness itself in a metal casket, in 1975; since 1997 he has been producing a new "dark box" every year. This show introduced the series' 2016 iteration, supplemented by drawings, materials and documents.
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The Art of Zen: From Mind to Form
18 October - 27 November 2016
Tokyo National Museum
(Tokyo)
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Portraits of priests and warlords . . . sculptures and calligraphy by Zen Buddhist masters . . . nothing in this show is terribly enlightening, until one comes to a portrait of the priest Nanpo Shomyo. Flaking pigment reveals another painting beneath, giving the subject four eyes and two mouths. Not only that, but except for the face, the painting is identical to an adjacent work, an older portrait of the Chinese Zen master Xutang Zhiyu. Like playing at dolls with interchangeable wardrobes, it would appear that Zen painters were not averse to expedient substitutions -- replace the face and Bob's your uncle.
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Amazing Show Tents in Japan
8 September - 29 November 2016
National Museum of Ethnology
(Osaka)
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There is plenty to titillate the mind here: freak-show tent signboards; acrobatic stunts; female sumo wrestling; basketry and seashell craftwork depicting humans and animals; mechanical dolls; "living" dolls; mummified mermaids . . . All exude the odor of contrivance, but that's as it should be. In our postmodern age, freak shows and the like seem barely a hair's breadth away from art, and enchant people just as convincingly.
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Takehiro Terabayashi: LIFE III
25 November - 18 December 2016
Yoshimi Arts
(Osaka)
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Apartment stairs, kitchens, light fixtures, switches, frayed tatami mats -- Terabayashi paints the things he sees every day. These ten paintings, of various dimensions, are life-sized, meticulous renderings of the objects around him. If this is photorealism, it's an extreme variant that obsessively reproduces every stain and smudge on the walls. "Hyperrealism," perhaps?
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Shunsuke Matsumoto: The Origin of His Creativity
8 October - 25 December 2016
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura Annex
(Kanagawa)
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Some 60 oils and sketches by Matsumoto (1912-48) are augmented by works by his New Artists' Group compatriots Saburo Aso, Aimitsu, Masaaki Terada, Chozaburo Inoue, and Masao Tsuruoka, as well as nudes by Tsuguharu Foujita. Of special interest is the art journal Mizue, which carried Matsumoto's essay "Living Artists," a response to the pro-censorship wartime roundtable "The National Defense State and Fine Art" that appeared in the same publication.
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How Will You Go, and Where? Travel Is Wonderful
11 November - 3 December 2016
Kyoto ddd gallery
(Kanagawa)
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A display of travel-themed posters from the collections of the DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion and the Kyoto Institute of Technology Museum and Archives. A happy chemistry arises from the complementary historicity of Western posters and the avant-garde bent of contemporary Japanese work. A symposium on "modern tourism in Japan as seen in tourism posters" rounds out this successful collaboration between academia and industry.
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Ryoji Ikeda: the radar [kyoto]

1 - 6 November 2016

ROHM Theatre Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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Part of the ambitious Kyoto Experiment 2016 Autumn exhibition program, composer and visual artist Ikeda's audiovisual extravaganza played from sundown to 10 p.m. on a huge ten-meter-long outdoor screen. Sonar sounds accompanied geometric patterns and colorful organic images -- mapped from a massive database -- of the universe as observed from the precise latitude-longitude coordinates of the event's location. The light show triggered flashbacks to the psychedelic "star gate" sequence in Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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Kaori Tanaka: Falling Sand and Stone
10 - 27 November 2016
gallery inokuma tei
(Kyoto)
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Tanaka paints Japanesque landscapes in oil with a decidedly contemporary look, using a bright, colorful palette to portray motifs, like Mt. Fuji or Mt. Horai, usually associated with traditional sumi-ink paintings, and placing them in a circular frame. In this show the first of two floors was given over to an installation of white sand and stones accompanied by a single painting. The work would blend equally well with a bonsai or bonkei tray landscape.
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