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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.

2 September 2013
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Awakening - Where Are We Standing? - Earth, Memory and Resurrection
10 August - 27 October 2013
Nagoya and Okazaki
This is the second Aichi Triennale, the big contemporary art event that sprawls across various venues in Nagoya, and as of this year extends into the neighboring city of Okazaki. The artistic director this time is Taro Igarashi, who teaches architecture at Tohoku University, so it is not surprising that a major focal point is the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Participants include 75 contemporary artists or art groups, 18 performing arts units, and an opera production. As the title would suggest, there is a very message-y aspect to many of the works on exhibit.

Yokoo's Yokoo Zoo

13 July - 16 September 2013
Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art
Targeting a parent-child audience, this show is distinguished by consisting entirely of works by Yokoo (the renowned artist and graphic designer whose work the museum was built to house) that feature animals. The hook is that the museum is located right across the street from Kobe's Oji Zoo, which has pitched in by lending a number of stuffed animals to the exhibition, making for a unique collaboration indeed.
Evangelion and Japanese Swords
3 July - 16 September 2013
Osaka Museum of History
Planned in tandem with the November 2012 release of Evangelion New Theatrical Edition Q, the latest production from the Evangelion sci-fi anime franchise, this show introduces Japanese swords created by contemporary swordsmiths drawing inspiration from the movie. The swords are, as one might expect, eye-catching in their novel shapes and colors.
PAPER: The New Shapes of Paper and Ourselves

20 June - 8 September 2013

Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo
Exploring the expressive possibilities of a familiar material, this show brings together six artists, designers, and architects who make contemporary art or products out of paper. The works on display all seem to reflect a desire to give visible form to the "feel" of paper and to the imprint left by human hands on the medium.
New Acquisitions: The Gallery Shinanobashi Collection

6 July - 10 November 2013

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
Osaka's Gallery Shinanobashi opened in 1965 and closed in 2010. Those 45 years coincided with the heyday of the Kansai contemporary art scene, in which it played a prominent role. Owner Katsuko Yamaguchi donated some 600 works from the gallery's collection to the Hyogo Prefectural Museum, of which 169 are on display as part of the museum's current showcase of new acquisitions. Among the artists are such leading lights as Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Minoru Yoshida, Yoko Yamamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, and Saburo Muraoka.
dreamscape -- La porte de l'écume

3 August - 16 September 2013

Kyoto Art Center
Located in a converted elementary school in downtown Kyoto, the center holds an intriguing invitational exhibition every summer. This year's featured artists are Yasuaki Onishi and Yuko Matsuzawa, who have created installations that fill every inch of the display area. Onishi uses polyethylene sheet to give visible form to the normally invisible phenomena of everyday life, while Matsuzawa has created decidedly non-quotidian spaces that seem to be inhabited by lifeforms embodying the essence of specific locales and environments.
The World of Kenji Ekuan and GK Design Group: Soaring High in the Sky

6 June - 1 September 2013

Setagaya Art Museum
If you live in Japan, even if you have never heard of Kenji Ekuan or his GK Design Group, chances are likely that you have encountered one of their designs. Among the more ubiquitous are the Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser, various JR East railway cars (including the Narita Express), and Yamaha motorcycles, as well as a number of urban planning projects that reflect Ekuan's interest in using industrial design as a guide for advancing and improving human lifestyles.
Etsuro Suzuki: Work for Angel China

3 - 15 July 2013

Alpino Ginka Gallery
The venerable artist and illustrator Etsuro Suzuki (b. 1924) is known for the illustrations he contributed to Jun'ichi Nakahara's magazines Soleil and Himawari (Sunflower), but he also illustrated children's picture books and designed book covers, handkerchiefs, school materials, and wrapping paper, among other things. This show focused on yet another of his multiple facets -- ceramics, which he produced for the Angel China company -- thereby further cementing his reputation as an astoundingly protean artist.
Kenji Yokoya
1 - 6 July 2013
Gallery K
Several tall pillars made of cardboard dangle from the ceiling of the gallery. As the visitor walks among them, they rotate slightly in response to the movement. From a distance, the turning pillars sometimes appear to form moire patterns on their surfaces. Yokoya's work surprises with a centrifugal quality that ever so casually dislocates the centripetal orientation of sculptural tradition.
LIFE - Kazumasa Nagai Poster Exhibition
9 July - 30 August 2013
ddd gallery
This show presented the LIFE series as well as other posters with plant and animal motifs by graphic designer Nagai, who has devoted himself to the series since the mid-1980s. His message about the preciousness of life and nature is reinforced by the organic quality of his hand-drawn images of creatures that are at once innocent and fantastical.
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