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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.

15 January 2014
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The Flower with the Color of Wind -- dialogues for the future
26 October 2013 - 26 January 2014
Arts Maebashi
(Gunma)
A brand-new cultural facility that opened last October in downtown Maebashi, the capital of Gunma Prefecture, Arts Maebashi has teamed up in this inaugural show with local art projects utilizing vacant venues scattered throughout the city. The central motif is a "dialoging" by contemporary artists with the work of Maebashi-related creators in various fields -- fine arts, literature, music, and science.

Open Space 2013

25 May 2013 - 2 March 2014
NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC)
(Tokyo)
Touted as a "beginner's guide to media art," this show offers a potpourri of entertaining multimedia installations, ranging from the eye and ear candy of Pe Lang's moving objects and Ei Wada's Falling Records, to Kotaro Maetani's minimalist video art, to Till Nowak's fantastical amusement-park rides. In tandem with its Imaginature Lab, the Japanese art team plaplax is conducting an ambitious series of experiments and workshops that titillate the senses of sight, sound, touch, and even taste.
Tazuko Masuyama: Until Everything Becomes a Photograph
6 October 2013 - 2 March 2014
Izu Photo Museum
(Shizuoka)
Known as the "Camera Grandma," Masuyama did not begin her photography career till she was 60, spurred by government plans to build a dam that would submerge her home village of Tokuyama, Gifu Prefecture, where she had spent her entire life. Her vast trove of snapshots, which she took continuously until her death at 88 in 2006 (the dam was completed in 2008), are not only the sole remaining record of life in Tokuyama; they provoke contemplation of issues ranging from the nation's public-works binge to urbanization and the abandonment of the countryside, the long-term impact of war (Masuyama's husband was lost in action in Burma), and of course the relationship between man and nature.
Junichi Nakahara: 100th anniversary of birth

9 November 2013 - 26 January 2014

Takasaki Museum of Art
(Gunma)
Through his work as a girls' magazine editor and artist in both the prewar and postwar years, Nakahara (1913-83) won legions of female fans for the diverse aesthetics he brought to the worlds of fashion, interior design, and lifestyle. This retrospective showcases an oeuvre that includes magazine covers, illustrations, paintings, dolls, and even dresses.
Poem and Death: Paintings by 4 artists

13 December 2013 - 19 January 2014

Gallery OUT of PLACE
(Nara)
Four painters (Koutaro Inoue, Shusuke Tanaka, Nahoko Tokuda, and Keisuke Hayashi) were invited to exhibit works on the theme of death and poetry (coincidentally or not, "four" (shi), like "poem," is a homonym in Japanese for "death"). An intriguing Christmas Eve talk event featured as guest speakers the Neo-Confucian scholar Yozo Nakarai and the architect Susumu Morita.
Tadanori Yokoo: Human Icons

28 September 2013 - 5 January 2014

Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art
(Hyogo)
The latest show at this museum devoted to artist and illustrator Yokoo's career features the portraits he has been making since the 1960s of actors, authors, musicians, and other cultural icons. Yokoo's media range from paintings to illustrations to posters to woodcuts. Thrown in for good measure are his series of portraits of modern Japanese writers, and his illustrations for popular author Jakucho Setouchi's Kien Mandara series.
Nozomi Tojinbara: Nobody knows you

11 December 2013 - 11 January 2014

Matsuo Megumi + Voice Gallery pfs/w
(Kyoto)
Tojinbara's surreal, allegorical paintings of huge-eyed young girls, mermaids, and anthropomorphized animals seem equal parts baroque and mangaesque. More than anything, they arouse this reviewer's curiosity about the origins of the artist's inspiration. This solo show features three large works, four portraits, seven new oils, and a selection of charcoal drawings.
Sculptors from Tokyo Zokei University: Started from Neo-Concrete Sculpture Exhibition (1976-1985)

11 November - 7 December 2013

Tokyo Zokei University
(Tokyo)
These seven sculptors (Katsura Funakoshi, Katsushige Nakahashi, Shosaku Asada, Yaeko Urano, Hideki Okuda, Toshiharu Miki, Toyomi Yamazaki) are associated with Tokyo Zokei University and the Neo-Concrete Sculpture exhibitions that spanned a decade in the seventies and eighties. Here they present works submitted to those shows as well as those from later years, including their most recent efforts. The examination of these various epochs in their careers offers a fascinating study of how their approaches evolved in diverse directions.
Ryudai Takano: Hong Kong - Shenzhen 1988
21 November - 21 December 2013
Zeit-Foto Salon
(Tokyo)
This series of 45 photos commemorates the unregulated architecture of Hong Kong and its mainland neighbor, the industrial hub of Shenzhen. Particularly evocative are Takano's shots of Kowloon's notorious Walled City in 1988, when it had just been slated for demolition, as well as Shenzhen's factories and apartments. Only 25 at the time, Takano captured these images with a cool, neutral eye that imbues the structures with a distinctive presence. Also of interest is the contrast between this "early period" of Takano's work and his later output.
Hitoshi Uemoto: Marine Area
20 November - 3 December 2013
Ginza Nikon Salon
(Tokyo)
Behind these deceptively lyrical images of the island of Otsu-shima and its environs lies a dark history: the island was the training base for young soldiers recruited to serve as "human torpedoes" (Kaiten) in the last desperate days of World War II. Shooting on his home turf (Tokuyama Bay in Yamaguchi Prefecture), Uemoto wills himself to confront the tragedies of the past even as he depicts the Seto Inland Sea in the tranquil present.
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