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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: With the relaxation of the government's emergency measures to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, most museums in Japan have reopened, but many still require reservations. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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Another Energy: 16 Women Artists from around the World
22 April - 26 September 2021
Mori Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Subtitled "Power to Continue Challenging," this exhibition celebrates the achievements of 16 female artists from 14 countries. All of them are over 70 and still active. Moreover, all have maintained their creative autonomy amid changes in the environments and times they live in, and without acceding to the pressures of art institutions and markets. The 130-plus works here -- ranging from paintings and sculptures to videos, large installations, and performances -- indeed exude a special kind of energy born of years of fearlessly challenging oneself and the world.
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Colorful Paper: The World of Paper Decoration
6 April - 6 June 2021
Okura Museum of Art
(Tokyo)
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Japan boasts a long tradition of making decorative paper for writing purposes. There is uchigami (hammered paper), which is dampened and pounded smooth; there is paper that's pre-wrinkled to alter the appearance of the characters written on it. And some paper is lavishly sprinkled with bits of gold and silver foil. This show presents a wealth of historic ornamental-paper artifacts, from the Ojobu, an austere eighth-century work of sutra-copy calligraphy, to Otsu-e, Edo-period works of folk art on paper, to 20th-century artist Shinbi Tanaka's exquisite reproductions of the ornate 12th-century Heike-nokyo sutra scrolls. As a special treat, the exhibits are accompanied by enlarged views of the papers as seen under a microscope.
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Stories Drawn in Thread: Embroidery, Illustration, and Fashion

24 April - 27 June 2021
Yokosuka Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Embroidery is an art created one stitch at a time that yields variegated forms of expression from the melding of thread and cloth with the patience and skill of the embroiderer. This exhaustive show offers some 230 works in the medium -- everything from Central and Eastern European folk costumes to Inuit wall hangings to French haute-couture embroidery, as well as picture-book art, illustrations, and works of fine art.
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Foujita: Explorations in Color
17 April - 5 September 2021
POLA Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Léonard (Tsuguharu) Foujita (1886-1968) first traveled to France at age 26 and soon earned a reputation for the lustrous "milky white" skin with which he imbued the models in his paintings. After returning to Japan in 1929 he began traveling to other parts of the world, and his palette grew increasingly colorful. This presentation focuses on works from that era, painted in places as far-flung as Mexico, New York, and Southeast Asia.
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Koichi Haremaki: Springfield
5 June - 5 September 2021
Nizayama Forest Art Museum
(Toyama)
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A solo exhibition by the Toyama-born sculptor. Occupying the center of the first floor of the museum is a gargantuan new work, nine meters on a side, composed of four semicircular steel arches, each with a 4.5-meter radius. The four legs of two arches stand on the floor, but the legs of the other two stretch skyward, as if supporting the ceiling. The space under the lower arches will be used as a stage for dance performances over the course of the exhibition.
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Beyond the Material
24 April - 20 June 2021
The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu
(Gifu)
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The present century has seen dramatic diversification of the cultural environment surrounding the arts, both fine and applied, accompanied by ever-closer interplay between the two genres. In the applied arts, practitioners have liberated themselves from the confines of function to address the essential properties of their materials. This show brings together works by eight contemporary Japanese artists working in such media as clay, glass, lacquer, metal, paper, and embroidery. All use the traditional techniques and ornamental elements associated with their material as a springboard for creative expressions born of a deep love and understanding of that material. Their work is indubitably Japanese in character, yet has global appeal.
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Michiko Fujita: Tie on the Premise of Untying

3 April - 6 June 2021

Chigasaki City Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Fujita (b. 1980) brings a fresh sensibility to works made from silk thread, fabric, beads, mirrors, and wood scraps that respond to the subtle play of light and air around them. Her creations, which assume different forms according to the day, time, and location of their viewing, serve as a tool for honing the senses of the viewer. Augmenting the silkscreens and small objects that make up much of Fujita's oeuvre to date are more recent forays into animation and paper work, as well as the large-scale installation made of ribbons alluded to by the title.
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A Nexus of Rainbows: Works from the Hara Museum and the Hara Rokuro Collections
24 April - 5 September 2021
Hara Museum ARC
(Gunma)
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This is the first collection exhibition to be held at ARC, the Hara Museum's Shibukawa facility, since it became the Hara's sole venue with the January closure of the grand old Art Moderne mansion that housed the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. The rainbows in the title reference the foundation that operates the museum, Arc-en-Ciel, but also signify the museum's aspiration, in its words, to "be a bridge that brings people together as equals through art" as well as "a symbolic link that connects the unique aspects of the two previous venues." The rainbow is further cited as a "symbol of diversity, coexistence, and peace," per which the current exhibition "presents a diverse range of expression by artists of different genders, nationalities and cultures."
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Saki Kirizuki & Chihiro Murata: Between things, phenomena and acts
17 April - 13 June 2021
Kyoto Art Center
(Kyoto)
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A dual exhibition by two artists who work in different media -- woodblock printing (Kirizuki) and fabric dyeing (Murata) -- but share an interest in the challenge of rendering visible the element of time inherent in a work of art. Both processes entail a temporal sequence of steps (carving, then printing from, a wooden block that itself was carved from a tree; the seeping of dye into a piece of cloth). In these works, traces of those discrete moments blend together, revealing the interplay between the materiality of wood, or the phenomenon of dyeing, and the actions of the artist.
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Design Museum Box
10 April - 9 May 2021
Ginza Sony Park
(Tokyo)
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Produced in tandem with the NHK television program Designing a Design Museum, this show featured "treasures" unearthed in different parts of Japan by five creators who have appeared on the program. What constituted a treasure varied with the viewpoint of the creator, but their targets were museums, private and public, that they deemed representative of "the design museum in Japan." The "designing a design museum" concept appears to involve the creation of a network linking these institutions.
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