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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 June 2014
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Kineo Kuwabara's Photographs: Tokyo Sketches of 60 Years
19 April - 8 June 2014
Setagaya Art Museum
(Tokyo)
Seven years after the photographer's passing, this exhibit of 220 images offers a thorough review of his career. Kuwabara's determinedly "passive" stance toward his subjects yielded an oeuvre of profoundly real, as-they-are images of Tokyo and its residents. Compared to the work of his contemporary Nobuyoshi Araki, they may appear on the subdued side, but they also evince Kuwabara's gentle acceptance of all he surveyed.

Apartment One One One: 111 Days at 1-1-1 Nakanoshima

29 March - 6 July 2014
Art Area B1
(Osaka)
Located in the basement of a downtown Osaka subway station, this event space is jointly operated by a corporation-university-NPO consortium. An imaginatively conceived open-submissions show currently occupies the apartment-like "pavilion" built inside the station concourse. Designed by dot architects and operated by the graf creative unit and the IN/SECTS production office, the cozy space nicely sets off the works displayed inside.
New Incubation 6 -- Sadaharu Horio × Ryotaro Fuyuki: Making Sense Out of Nonsense

17 May - 29 June 2014

Kyoto Art Center
(Kyoto)

The New Incubation series pairs a veteran artist with a young up-and-comer, presenting works on a common theme. Up till now this reviewer has found it difficult to get a handle on the ideas or motivations behind the work of Fuyuki (b. 1984), but when juxtaposed as it is here with that of the venerable avant-gardist Horio (b. 1939), it does indeed start making sense.
18,000 Original Manga Drawings by Tsuchida Seiki

31 May - 31 August 2014

Kyoto International Manga Museum
(Kyoto)

The Manga Museum offers a mammoth exhibition of 18,000 original pages by Seiki Tsuchida, a brilliant cartoonist who died two years ago, when he was only 43. Divided into three periods of his career and including a large number of unpublished pieces, the overwhelming display more than amply bears witness to his genius. Also worth a read is the anthology SEIKI, published concurrently with the show.
Nicolas Buffe: The Dream of Polifilo

19 April - 29 June 2014

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
(Tokyo)
French artist and Tokyo resident Buffe says that he aspires to a fusion of Western classical art and Japanese role-playing games. This show takes unprecedented advantage of the Hara Museum's layout (it was formerly a residence) as it leads the viewer from room to room on a journey based on the medieval tale of Polifilo.
Bungeizekka: Tadahiko Hayashi, Koichi Saito, Yoshikatsu Hayashi, Kunihiko Takaoka

19 April - 29 June 2014

Machida Citizen's Literary Hall Kotoba-Land
(Tokyo)
In 1957 the legendary photographer Tadahiko Hayashi (1918-90) published Shosetsu no Furusato ("Birthplaces of Stories," Chuokoron), a collection of photos of locales around Japan that served as settings for contemporary novels and short stories. Five of these series appear here along with works by three of Hayashi's disciples, including his son Yoshikatsu. Their varying approaches to photography make this a worthwhile study in the diversity of the art form.
Takahashi Collection 2014: Mindfulness!

12 April - 8 June 2014

Nagoya City Art Museum
(Aichi)
Though it doesn't offer much in the way of novelty, for a personal collection this exhibition serves as an astonishingly comprehensive overview of contemporary Japanese art, of which psychiatrist Ryutaro Takahashi is one of the country's preeminent collectors. Takahashi's preferences are evident: he likes poppish yet subtle stuff, as typified by Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami, and Makoto Aida. The show also focuses on Nagoya-area artists like Satoko Nachi and Noriko Wada.
Will Happiness Find Me? 10 Artists from the Ishikawa Collection, Okayama

19 April - 29 June 2014

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
This is a selection of conceptual artworks from the considerable collection amassed by Yasuharu Ishikawa. Heavy on videos and text, quite a number of the pieces defy the conventional notion of art. One wonders, for instance, just how one goes about "collecting" a work like Pierre Huyghe's Name Announcer, which entails a doorman calling out the names of arriving visitors.
Tama/Anima (Please Breathe Life into Me): Rei Naito / photographs Naoya Hatakeyama
4 April - 31 May 2014
Gallery Koyanagi
(Tokyo)
Photographer Hatakeyama has captured the nuances of an installation that artist Rei Naito contributed to an atomic bomb-themed exhibition at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum in 2013. The result is a moving collaboration between the two. Echoing the delicacy of Naito's work, Hatakeyama carefully chose his camera angles so as to record the silent conversation between artwork and viewer in the most unobtrusive manner possible.
Atelier Bow Wow: Micro Public Space
15 February - 6 May 2014

Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
(Hiroshima)

This exhibition gathers together the architecture unit Atelier Bow Wow's entire output of "micro public spaces," works that hover somewhere in the zone between buildings and furniture. The actual structures displayed here provide a good summing-up of the Atelier's thinking on the potential of small public spaces, an interest they have pursued in tandem with their work designing residences.
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