Picks :

Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering short reviews of exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

1 July 2010
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Yoichiro Yoda: The Shining at Hotel Pennsylvania
10 May - 5 June 2010
nantenshi gallery
Yoda was born in Japan but raised in New York, where he still lives, devoting himself exclusively to paintings of dramatic scenes that take place in old theaters or hotels in places like Lower Manhattan. His motifs and colors are unique, and though his technique could be charitably described as crude, it is a flavorful crudeness: the results are weirdly delightful.
Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2010
29 April - 30 May 2010
Gyoko-dori Underground Gallery
Exhibited in a massive subterranean walkway in Tokyo's downtown Marunouchi district, this show of selected works by recent graduates of art schools throughout Japan can be viewed anytime the lights are on. Most of the works on display are paintings, and most of them are very good indeed. Standout artists include Muju Matsukuma, Midori Sato, Asuka Nakayama, and Ryuichiro Otake.
Mika Ninagawa: Ninagawa Baroque/Extreme
28 April - 30 May 2010
NADiff A/P/A/R/T
An annual spring event occupies the entire multi-story NADiff A/P/A/R/T art complex. Last year's featured Kishin Shinoyama; this year it was photographer Nakagawa's turn to go crazy. Offerings include video works shot in Shanghai, on view in the Magic Room; "Erika Sawajiri X Mika Ninagawa" in the Special Gallery; "Flower Addict" in the G/P gallery; "Ninagawa Shanghai" in NADiff gallery 2F; and "Tokyo Underworld" in the basement NADiff gallery.
Kyogei Transmit Program #1: Kyo-Sei
1 - 30 May 2010
Kyoto City University of Arts Gallery @KCUA
Part 2 of the spring-long opening exhibition of Kyoto City University of Art's new gallery, @KCUA, introduced nine artists: Naomi Ashida, Ryosuke Imamura, Makito Okada, Shohei Nishigami, Akira Higashi, Ryoko Fujii, Koji Maekawa, Hiroshi Mizuta, and Marie Yoshiki. Unlike Part 1, which featured a hodgepodge of works, this show provided solo settings for each artist. The diverse media -- video installations, ceramics, fabrics, paintings -- highlighted the artists' materials and techniques with a refreshing lack of pretension or shock value.
Takahiro Suzuki: Ikiro
17 - 29 May 2010
Gallery Gen
Suzuki has been creating performances and workshops on the theme of Ikiro! (Be alive!) all over the world for over ten years now. This show is a retrospective of the entire project to date. Paintings of flowers are mixed in among the written characters for ikiro, and the character for life itself () resembles a flower. In a country where 30,000 people kill themselves every year, Suzuki's message may prove more poignant and effective than simply saying "Don't die!"
Tetsuya Ishida: Works
17 - 29 May 2010
Gallery Q
Five years after the painter died in a tragic accident at age 31, this retrospective commemorates the publication of a collection of Ishida's entire oeuvre, Tetsuya Ishida Complete. Ishida's accessible subject matter and the timing of his emergence, which coincided with Japan's art bubble, propelled his meteoric rise in popularity. Still, one wonders if he would have remained in the public eye to the extent he is today were it not for his premature death.
Shota Kubo: My Sandwich
18 - 24 May 2010
Bartok Gallery
This reviewer doesn't usually seek out exhibitions of original paintings by children's picture-book illustrators. But Kubo is an old classmate (we were in middle school art club together) and I hadn't seen him in years. One of those rare individuals who has somehow preserved his youthful naivety and sincerity, Kubo gives ample rein to these attributes through his picture books. Our reunion only served to remind me of my own descent into shabby middle age.
Mirai Kim: Chapters 1-3 (The Story Begins)
11 - 23 May 2010
neutron kyoto
In this series of large paintings (each work comprises a "chapter" of an entire "book"), a woman stares out from a dark background laced with ultramarine blue. The darkness evokes depth and quietude, but closer inspection reveals something unsettling about these works: they are composed of countless delicately drawn lines and subtle gradations of color. The lines, the colors, and the expressions on the women's faces conspire to draw the viewer into deep, inextricable recesses of the subconscious.
Tokyo Story
1 - 23 May 2010
Tokyo Wonder Site Hongo
Works are presented by Kanako Sasaki, Nobuhiro Shimura, Hanako Murakami, and five other artists or art units who participated in TWS Hongo's creators-in-residence program over the past year. Unfortunately the haphazard presentation lacked the story-art thread that held a parallel residency show together at another TWS venue in Shibuya. But perhaps a lack of focus here was inevitable, since this program brought together a scattering of local and overseas artists.
The Globalization: Haruko Sasakawa BARBARA DARLINg
18 - 21 May 2010
Tokyo University of the Arts Gallery
Something sneakily provocative about these works -- particularly DARLINg's -- drew this reviewer to the show. Example: three breeding cases in a row, with a mouse in each one. Next to them, a video shows a man passionately intoning something to the effect that "Enabling communication by building bridges between three isolated worlds: this, my friends, is the essence of globalization!" Other installations employ equally cheap materials and methods to lampoon and emasculate today's information-glutted, technocrat-controlled society. For some reason they brought the 9-11 attacks to mind.
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