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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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Tiger Tateishi: The Retrospective -- Track, Travel, Trap, Trance
20 July - 5 September 2021
Aomori Museum of Art
(Aomori)
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Koichi Tateishi (1941-98), better known by his penname Tiger, was the protean, fearlessly genre-leaping purveyor of a singular world expressed through paintings, ceramic sculptures, manga, picture books, and illustrations. Whatever their medium or time frame, his works are noteworthy for their strata-like agglomerations of diverse events and concepts. More to be excavated than viewed, they offer multidimensional depictions of a reality not only of the artist's making but also of our own. With over 200 works and other materials on hand, this roving exhibition is a rare chance to appreciate Tateishi's one-of-a-kind oeuvre. (For a longer review, see the July 2021 Here and There.)
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Living in Symbiosis with Forests and Water
28 August - 3 November 2021
Nagano Prefectural Art Museum
(Nagano)
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Forests and water are natural phenomena whose existence is crucial to our own. This show gathers together portrayals of humanity's relationship with those phenomena in art of diverse media and eras. It's an ambitious attempt to present nature as seen through the eyes of artists ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, realist and abstract, each with their own personal filter of perceptions and memories. In five sections on various water- or forest-related themes, the exhibition invites viewers to reassess their own interactions with nature and with art today.
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Beuys + Palermo
10 July - 5 September 2021
Museum of Modern Art, Saitama
(Saitama)
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Known for his declaration that "Our true capital is our creativity," Joseph Beuys (1921-86) was an artist who treated society as sculpture and sought its far-reaching reform. By pairing his work with that of his protégé Blinky Palermo (1943-77), this show seeks to reveal the latent power in the two artists' practices by exploring the unique attributes of each as well as their points of intersection and overlap. This is art that demands that we reexamine not only the relationship of art and society, but the very act of making art.
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Studio COOCA Exhibition
10 July - 12 September 2021
The Hiratsuka Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Studio COOCA is a service facility in Hiratsuka that uses art as a means of encouraging people with various disabilities to unleash their innate talents. This exhibition presents paintings and installations by COOCA artists, accompanied by live art productions and performances. The works here stand out for their colorful palettes and lively motifs, expressions of an unfettered worldview and an approach to art capable of inspiring people everywhere. There is no doubt that they contain the power to make an impact on society.
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Human Nature: Dai Fujiwara

17 July - 5 September 2021
Chigasaki City Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Designer and creative director Fujiwara has earned international renown for his use of cutting-edge technology in the service of work grounded in the world of nature. Of the human-nature connection, he declares, "Nature can only exist inside people. It's not something outside us." In this, his first solo show in a Japanese museum, he displays a lesser-known side of his talents through installations, many making their public debut, that anticipate the future direction of society.
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The Impact of Mexico
10 July - 26 September 2021
Ichihara Lakeside Museum
(Chiba)
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Not too many people know that Chiba Prefecture, where the museum is located, is the site of the first encounter -- a shipwreck -- between Mexico and Japan. This exhibition traces the history of relations between the two countries in an effort to identify what it is about Mexico's culture, land, people, and art that so strongly influenced eight Japanese artists who spent time there. One leaves the galleries feeling similarly inspired by the qualities of the country that resonated with these artists. (For a longer review, see this issue's Focus.)
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Senpan Maekawa: From the Hiraki Collection
13 July - 20 September 2021
Chiba City Museum of Art
(Chiba)
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Maekawa (1888-1960) started out as a caricaturist, dabbling in woodblock prints in his spare time, but eventually became one of modern Japan's foremost exponents of the sosaku hanga ("creative prints") movement. Warm, unpretentious, and laced with humor, his woodcuts retain their charm even today. Lately Maekawa has enjoyed renewed cachet as facts come to light about the significant role he played in the earliest years of Japanese animation. This, the first major retrospective of his work in 44 years, gives him his due with a massive offering of 350 prints, mostly from the famed Hiraki Collection of ukiyo-e art.
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Photographic Distance
17 July - 5 September 2021
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts
(Tochigi)
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With the world now saturated with high-resolution images -- a trend that began in the late 20th century -- we are seeing a new aesthetic emerge that finds value, however ironically, in imagery that is blurred, fuzzy, indistinct. The 90-odd works on display here belong to three categories: prints made by the photomechanical processes that seem to have fallen out of favor in the contemporary art world; hi-res photographic prints; and paintings and prints that resemble photographs. By comparing works in these three genres, the show purports to shed light on the renewed appreciation of lo-res imagery in the digital era and to reappraise the significance of the unique continuous-tone properties of photography.
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A Room for Communication

15 August - 10 October 2021

The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
(Wakayama)
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Recent years have seen the ascendancy of digital-based communication via email, SNSs, online meetings and so on. Yet communication ultimately entails not just the transmission, but the sharing of information. What sort of communication transpires at an art exhibition? This one aspires to encourage thinking about exhibition venues as "rooms for communication" from the standpoint of diverse actors -- the artists who create the works on display, the viewers, and the museums that host them.
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Takeshi Kojima: One Dream

24 July - 25 September 2021

Kyoto ddd gallery
(Kyoto)
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Kojima, who passed away at age 69 in 2009, was a maverick among Japanese illustrators. He had close ties with musicians, who commissioned much of his work. This generous look at his oeuvre allows viewers to enjoy it via slides and light tables, as well as to examine the idiosyncratic processes by which he created it. These included repeatedly drawing the same motif in conjunction with different backgrounds; layering copies of pencil drawings to accentuate their blackness; and cutting up his illustrations to make collages atop other pictures.
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>> Back Issues
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