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Picks :
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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.

Note: Most of Japan's museums and galleries have reopened, but conditions and anti-coronavirus precautions vary. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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Tomoko Sawada: To Be Bewitched by a Fox
2 March - 9 May 2021
Tokyo Photographic Art (TOP) Museum
(Tokyo)
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When we think of artists who create self-portraits in various guises, Yasumasa Morimura comes to mind. Sawada's work takes an entirely different approach to identity-morphing, but with equally provocative results, as this retrospective of her major works over the past 25 years demonstrates. Themed on the relationship between outward appearance and inner reality, her portraits are of the artist transformed into several dozen discrete identities through the artifice of hairstyle, makeup, and dress. Close scrutiny of these grids of hundreds of identically formatted snapshots makes it clear they are of the same person, but that is certainly not obvious at first glance.
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rhizomatiks_multiplex
20 March - 20 June 2021
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT)
(Tokyo)
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From its inception, this high-tech art collective has made its focus the relationship between human beings and technology. Rhizomatiks' first big solo show at a museum reviews their trans-disciplinary productions to date as well as introducing new projects that, in their words, "critically synchronize with the present." It's a visually stunning presentation of the group's ongoing quest for visions of the unknown and possibilities for a "new humanity" in a digitized, networked world.
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TDC 2021
1 April - 29 May 2021
ginza graphic gallery (ggg)
(Tokyo)
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Back in its normal April slot after postponement to summer last year due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Type Directors Club's annual exhibition features 122 prizewinning and nominated works from this year's TDC Awards competition. Despite fears that the virus would force its cancellation, the contest attracted a record 3,750 entries from 35 countries -- 1,947 from Japan and 1,803 from abroad. As always there is an invigorating diversity to the designs on display; among this year's selection, not a few were clearly influenced by the fraught social circumstances of 2020.
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Spring Edo Painting Festival: Yosa Buson
13 March - 9 May 2021
Fuchu Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The show is subtitled "The painter who made art from awkardness," but "weirdness" might be the more apt description. One of Japan's most renowned haiku poets, Buson (1716-83) was also a prolific ink-brush painter of meditative landscapes and witty haiga (sketches accompanying haiku), as well as portraits of people that can only be described as eerie, if not downright grotesque. This latter tendency became more pronounced toward the end of his life. The 100 or so works on display in Fuchu amply reveal the many sides to this sometimes frivolous, sometimes profound, always idiosyncratic artist.
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Young Portfolio 2020

20 March - 13 June 2021
Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (K*MoPA)
(Yamanashi)
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The images selected this year for K*MoPA's annual showcase of young photographers were shot before the onset of the pandemic, yet many of them differ distinctly from past offerings in the way they face, or distance themselves from, the world at large. Some reflect our reliance on information obtained from photographs and videos as well as AI-based virtual technology. But there are also works that look at the emotional sanctuaries sought out by individuals as a respite from the invisible social pressures we endure. The show provides plenty of food for thought about the times we live in, channeled through the physical senses of the photographers.
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Viva Video! The Art and Life of Shigeko Kubota
20 March - 6 June 2021
The Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art
(Niigata)
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Niigata-born Kubota (1937-2015) is best known as a female Japanese artist who was based in the United States and created hybrid works of "video sculpture." Recent research, however, has unearthed previously overlooked facets of her oeuvre. This exhibition focuses on materials that have not been made public before, among them video sculptures restored by the Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation, which was established in New York immediately after her death five years ago; drawings and documents that were in the possession of the artist; and works in the collections of museums in Japan.
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Constructive Posters of the 20th Century
30 January - 11 April 2021
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Poster design is one area of the graphic arts that vividly reflects the influence of Constructivism, a movement that emerged in Europe in the 1910s and 1920s and transformed 20th-century art and design. Culled from the Takeo Poster Collection of Tama Art University, the works on display here exemplify Constructivist innovations in graphics and text. Each poster bursts with its own peculiar vitality and creativity, and taken together they illustrate the historical development of modern poster design.
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Gentle Japanese Painting: 5 Tips to Find "Why"
25 February - 4 April 2021
Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art & Design
(Toyama)
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The word "gentle" (yasashii), connoting a mild tranquility or refined modesty, may be a fitting adjective for many works of the Nihonga ("Japanese painting") genre, which developed in late-19th century Japan. But just why do they seem so "gentle"? This exhibition strives to answer that by examining the who, what, where, when, and how of Nihonga. Gentleness can be found throughout these works, it avers, in many guises: their evocation of seasons and wild flowers and grasses, their meditative landscapes, their warm colors, their quiet spirituality, and their hints of pathos.
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Fashion in Japan 1945-2020

20 March - 16 May 2021

Iwami Art Museum
(Shimane)
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Japanese fashion designers have enjoyed global acclaim since the 1970s. This show looks at the emergence of the unique fashions of postwar Japan from two angles: the designers of apparel and other fashion concepts, and the consumers who wear their creations and in so doing sometimes trigger entire fashion movements. It purports to be the first major exhibition anywhere to examine the social context of Western-style Japanese fashion's trajectory from its Meiji-era origins to its most radical innovations today.
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Tokushima Collection: Kikuji Yamashita at 101

16 February - 11 April 2021

The Tokushima Modern Art Museum
(Tokushima)
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Tokushima-born painter Yamashita (1919-86) is considered one of the leading lights of postwar Japanese art. Deeply affected by his wartime experience as a soldier, he is remembered for his biting, Surrealist take on war, discrimination and other human evils. He would have turned 101 this year, and the museum embraces the occasion to highlight the brilliance and significance of Yamashita's work -- which is, unfortunately for what it says about humanity, as timely as ever.
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