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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 current or recent exhibitions at museums and galleries around the country.

Note: Emergency measures to minimize the spread of the coronavirus are still in flux. As of this posting most museums in Japan are open, but many require reservations, and further restrictions may be imposed if the situation worsens. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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image image 2 August 2021
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Tsubasa Kato: Turf and Perimeter
17 July - 20 September 2021
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Kato's m.o. is to document, through video and still photography, projects he has devised that require the collaboration of multiple participants. Conducting his research and the resulting performances on an international scale, he has earned acclaim as one of Japan's most highly regarded contemporary artists. Against the background of the pandemic and a global trend toward polarization among nations and their people, Kato's work offers evidence of the possibilities for fostering solidarity and community through cooperative endeavors that transcend such forces.
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Ainu Woodcarver Fujito Takeki: Envoy of the Forest
17 July - 26 September 2021
Tokyo Station Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Fujito's work is noteworthy for its balance of daring and sensitivity, force and tenderness. Carved at a single sitting, his sculptures of bears and other animals fairly burst with life. At the same time, the delicacy with which he carves their fur defies the fact that he has coaxed each work from a solid block of hard wood. The same is true of his life-size figures of Ainu ancestors, which evince both finely wrought detail and a powerful dignity. (For a detailed review, see this month's Focus.)
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Exhibition "Rules?"

2 July - 28 November 2021
21_21 Design Sight
(Tokyo)
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An exploration, from diverse angles, of how designers may give shape to rules devised to enable us to coexist in society from this point on. We need to consider, for example, how to update laws and regulations in keeping with the times, as well as how to incorporate minority views, which often get ignored in the rulemaking process. The exhibition also addresses such phenomena as the use of big data to provide an overview of society, the "civic tech" movement of citizens utilizing technology to solve social problems, ways in which constraints can spur new forms of creativity, and the emergence of new rules and customs from human behavior.
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Mondrian: Commemorating the 150th Year Since His Birth
10 July - 20 September 2021
Toyota Municipal Museum Art
(Aichi)
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Culled mainly from the massive Mondrian collection of the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands, this thorough look at the modernist master's oeuvre begins with his early landscapes and traces his evolution, via influences ranging from cubism to theosophy, to the purely abstract color-plane compositions for which he is so famous. The inclusion of works by artists like Theo van Doesburg, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld and others who joined Mondrian in the Dutch art group De Stijl adds some perspective on developments in abstract art among his contemporaries.
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Anteroom Transmission vol. 1
28 April - 30 June 2021
Gallery 9.5, Hotel Anteroom Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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This first installment of a project designed to nurture young artists commemorated the tenth anniversary of the art hostelry Hotel Anteroom Kyoto. With "Portraits of a Society in Flux" as its subtitle, the show purported to present works that convey a message to the world they were made in. The seven artists selected were all in college or had graduated within the past three years. The common theme appeared to be the relationships that have arisen amid the pandemic between the visual media of this digitized era and our bodies, our intellects, our belongings, and society.
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Ri Jong Ok: Country of Symbols
17 - 22 May 2021
Gallery Q6
(Tokyo)
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Ri's solo show featured works that depict places believed by certain people to be "sacred" -- among them Mt. Fuji, Korea's Mt. Paektu, and an Olympic Stadium. All are line drawings meticulously executed in pencil on paper, with some areas tinted with acrylic paint. Another composition portrays a bridge, erected in 2015 as part of a project in which Ri participated, between her alma mater Korea University and its neighbor in the Tokyo suburbs, Musashino Art University. Drawn in one-point perspective, the piece displays a draftsmanlike precision that brings the work of Akira Yamaguchi to mind. The impact of these superbly executed works on such intense themes as sacred space, boundaries, and nationality belies their superficial air of delicate vulnerability.
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Eriko Suzuki: Amanjaku

25 May - 7 June 2021

Nikon Salon / The Gallery
(Tokyo)
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The title of this solo show is a word in Gunma prefectural dialect for someone who often gets rained on, or who likes the rain, as Suzuki seems to. These 42 photos were all shot on rainy days (some on snowy ones), a condition suited to the snapshot in the way it transforms familiar scenes, people's behavior, and the look of things in general. There is no denying that memories of rain-damp landscapes and townscapes are part of the Japanese DNA, triggering in us all an indefinable nostalgia.
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Hitoshi Toyoda: Visual Diary / Slide Show
4 - 6, 10 - 13 June 2021
Fugensha
(Tokyo)
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Born in New York but raised in Tokyo, photographer Toyoda returned to the U.S. in 1990 and made his base in New York City, where he began exhibiting work in the form of slide shows in 1993. Initially he would haul a curtain and a slide projector to a parking lot, church, park, or other public space and run the projector himself for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. The images would simply flow by, interspersed with occasional bits of text conveying his thoughts and feelings about things he had seen or experienced. After over two decades in New York he moved back to Japan, where he now lives in the coastal town of Yugawara southwest of Tokyo. One looks forward to seeing future slide shows inspired by his life there.
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Bunpei Kado: The garden / Secret room
21 May - 20 June 2021
Art Front Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Affixed to one wall are reliefs of rocks in a dry-landscape formation reminiscent of the Zen garden at Kyoto's Ryoanji temple. Each rock is encircled by concentric ripples that faithfully evoke the style of such gardens -- but the multicolored boulders appear to be resin rock-climbing holds. Occupying an adjacent gallery is Secret room, a darkened space in the center of which an antique-looking lamp dangles from the ceiling to a point just inches above the floor, illuminating the tables, wall clocks and other items of aging furniture that lie scattered around it -- an allusion, it turns out, to the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. Every one of Kado's works is a clever, carefully laid-out critique of modern civilization.
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Goto Aki: event horizon
17 June - 11 July 2021
Fugensha
(Tokyo)
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Goto's photos focus on phenomena that occur within larger natural environments, showing us that no matter how static the scene captured by a still photo may appear, there is plenty going on. His avowed aspiration is to portray nature "as it exists, in a state of constant change, amid the play of light and wind in an accumulation of moments since time immemorial . . . devoid of the names and meanings imposed on it by humanity."
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