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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.

1 August 2012
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Lake Amawaka Art Project 2012
4 - 5 August 2012
Lake Amawaka, Hiyoshi
When the Hiyoshi Dam was built on the Katsura River northwest of Kyoto, it submerged some 120 households in the village of Amawaka. Every year in early August, this art project (subtitled "Memories Linked by Lamplight") commemorates the drowned village by floating lanterns on the lake directly over the houses that lie beneath the surface. Made by inhabitants of the Katsura Valley and placed in accordance with Amawaka village records, the lanterns are lit in a haunting illumination for only two nights each summer. A special bus service is available from JR Hiyoshi station to the lake on both nights, as well as bus tours departing from Kyoto.

Tatsu Nishino: HOTEL GENT

12 May - 16 September 2012
Gent-Sint-Pieters Station
(Ghent, Belgium)
Step outside the Sint-Pieters train station in Ghent, Belgium and look back at the old clock tower, now surrounded by temporary scaffolding that supports a hotel room in which one may stay the night, with only the huge clockface for company. The centerpiece of the city of Ghent's ongoing TRACK "intervention project," HOTEL GENT is the work of Japanese installation artist Tatsu Nishino, a.k.a. Tazu Rous. In keeping with TRACK's utilization of various unorthodox venues in a chosen locale, Nishino has found an unexpected use for Ghent's most visible landmark.
Musashino Art University and Design II: Design Archive from 50's to 70's
14 May - 18 August 2012
Musashino Art University Museum & Library
Focusing on the decades when Japanese graphic design reached its postwar zenith, this show presents works from the host university's collection associated with the Japan Advertising Artists Club and with the groundbreaking "Persona" design exhibition of 1965. This is the first time the JAAC materials have been displayed since the group's demise in 1970, and the first time in 40 years for the "Persona" works to appear in public. Thrown in for good measure are selected pieces from the school's collections of magazines noted for their editorial design, and of . . . chairs.
Real Japanesque: The Unique World of Japanese Contemporary Art

10 July - 30 September 2012

National Museum of Art, Osaka
The nine featured artists -- Taro Izumi, Satoshi Ohno, Maoya Kishi, Katsuhisa Sato, Teppei Soutome, Nobuaki Takekawa, Kazuyuki Takezaki, Shimon Minamikawa, and Mayuko Wada -- were all born in the 1970s or 1980s. According to the curators, their works exemplify an "honest and intellectual" -- and distinctively Japanese -- response to such issues confronting their generation as the splintering of values following the "impasse" reached by late-20th-century Western art, the challenge of moving beyond the work of artists born in the 1960s, and the "inundation of art-related information."
Sakiko Kurita: Strolling Gardener

16 - 30 June, 2 - 14 July 2012

Fukugan Gallery
Two paintings hang side-by-side: one depicts a man sitting in a chair with the backside of Taro Okamoto's Tower of the Sun behind him, while the other shows the same man standing in a tatami-floored room strumming a guitar. Titled The Back of the Sun, the diptych is an example of Kurita's ability to create works that harmoniously blend disparate spaces and times. Her unique compositions and curious titles never fail to conjure up new stories and motifs in the mind of the viewer.
Tamutori: Mirai-chan's Future

1 - 24 June 2012

blind gallery
Photographer Kotori Kawashima scored an unlikely hit last year with Mirai-chan, a collection of snapshots of the young daughter of a friend living on Sado Island. The photos inspired Bangkok-based manga artist and animator Wisut Ponnimit, a.k.a. Tamukun, to draw a series of illustrations of little Mirai (whose name means "Future"). With a title that is an amalgam of the two artists' names and a subtitle that is a play on Mirai's, this show juxtaposes Tamukun's drawings with the photos by Kotori that inspired them.
Kunihiko Katsumata: Dimensions

4 - 16 June 2012

Galerie Omotesando
Four photo series by Katsumata make up this show: Skyline (2001-), his signature collection of wide-screen panoramic cityscapes; Screen (2002-); Hotel's Window (2003-); and a new video work, Cities on the Move. Of these, the most promising is Hotel's Window, which contrasts hotel room interiors with the views seen through their windows. These are powerful images that move beyond the usual clichテゥs of "interior/exterior" composition.

1st Exhibition AGAIN-ST

11 - 23 July 2012

CS Gallery, Tokyo Zokei University
AGAIN-ST is the project of thirty-something sculptors Motohiro Tomii, Soichiro Fukai, Ayato Fujiwara, and Tomotaka Yasui with curator Takashi Ishizaki of the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya. The four young sculptors invited four colleagues to join them for this self-produced show: Hiroyuki Tanaka, Akihiro Higuchi, Koji Nakano, and Takuma Uematsu. In a joint declaration the group says, "AGAIN-ST is a group that is concerned for the fate of sculpture. We share a sense of crisis. While voices are loudly raised about the death of painting, sculpture is in even graver danger, yet remains ignored."

Natsumi Hayashi: Today's Levitation

16 June - 29 July 2012

Hayashi's debut exhibition already has the markings of a breakthrough to the big time. It was raining on the day of the artist's reception, but the first floor of Ebisu's NADiff a/p/a/r/t complex was packed. During the year starting January 1, 2011, Hayashi's blog "yowayowa camera woman diary" featured a different shot each day of the photographer herself leaping in the air in various settings. The whimsical self-portraits caught on quickly in the blogosphere, making Hayashi a star overseas as well as at home. This show commemorates the publication in Japan of her debut photo collection by the same title; the book has already been published in Taiwan.
"Modernologio" Now: Kon Wajiro's Science of the Present
26 April - 19 June 2012
National Museum of Ethnology
A true renaissance man, architect/artist/statistician Wajiro Kon (1888-1973) studied traditional Japanese farmhouse architecture, recorded and analyzed the changes in urban life that followed the Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and initiated "lifestyle studies" and "clothing studies" of postwar Japan. He also coined the term "modernology" to describe his study of modern life. This exhibition examines Kon's multifarious activities as well as his own lifestyle, and traces the links between his work and the host museum's ethnological research.
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