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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: As of 1 October, Japan is no longer under a state of emergency. Most museums and galleries are open, but some may still require reservations or have other anti-Covid measures in place. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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image image 15 December 2021
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Ohmori Akio: Sculpture Works
19 November 2021 - 6 February 2022
Paramita Museum
(Mie)
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Ohmori (b. 1971) works primarily with wood and metal, sculpting images of living creatures that appear serene yet possessed of a forceful gaze. Some are based on actual models, others on his imagination, but all of them reflect the artist's determination to create figures with their own distinct aura. Nor has Ohmori ever flagged in his search for new ways to enchant viewers with the magic of sculpture.
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Memories Penetrate the Ground and Permeate the Wind
6 November 2021 - 23 January 2022
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The 18th iteration of the TOP Museum's annual "Contemporary Japanese Photography" show features four artists (Shiho Yoshida, Han Ishu, Hiroshi Ikeda, Ayaka Yamamoto) and one art unit (Haruka Komori + Natsumi Seo). Though disparate in their approaches, all base their work on the experience of the individual. Through their images they painstakingly reconstruct the ways in which the self interacts with others.
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Matsue Taiji: makietaCC
9 November 2021 - 23 January 2022
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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What makes Matsue's work especially intriguing is that he makes no distinction between the act of photographing and the act of exhibiting. As a result, viewers find it impossible to discern which of these cityscapes are real and which are models. That is because Matsue employs photographic techniques to render both types of subject equally flat. Imparting this sort of equivalence to the surface of the image has been an objective of many photographers, but Matsue's work stands out for the purity of execution he achieves.
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theater apartment complex libido:F series
10 - 26 December 2021
Senpakukosha
(Chiba)
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Named after the studio the theater troupe libido: occupies in Senpakukosha, a shared creative space in the Tokyo suburb of Matsudo, the "libido:F series" consists of three one-person plays adapted and performed by three of the troupe's actors, all directed by leader Tetsuya Iwasawa. Currently up are episode:01, Broken Incense Sticks, and episode:02, The Last Smoker. Judging by the enthusiastic full house for episode:01 during an earlier run, both Senpakukosha and libido: have developed a cordial relationship with the surrounding community. No doubt it helps that the play is ripe with entertainment value, based as it is on a rakugo comedic storytelling script, then further embellished with some local color.
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Viva Video! The Art and Life of Shigeko Kubota

13 November 2021 - 23 February 2022
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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This traveling retrospective is the first big show devoted to Kubota (1937-2015) in Japan in three decades, and the first anywhere since her death. Born in Niigata but active primarily in New York, Kubota was known for her "video sculptures," hybrids of the two media that placed her at the vanguard of the video art genre. One of the objectives of this exhibition is to give viewers from around the globe access to the fruits of recent research into her legacy as a female Japanese artist based in the United States. Included are resuscitated video sculptures, drawings, and other materials, many made public for the first time. (For a detailed review, see the August 2021 Focus.)
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Shigeo Toya, Forest - Lake: Regeneration and Memory
16 October 2021 - 16 January 2022
Ichihara Lakeside Museum
(Chiba)
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According to the museum website: "One of Japan's leading sculptors, Shigeo Toya has spent his career reconstructing the very concept of 'sculpture' in a dedicated exploration of what exactly constitutes sculpture. Etched deeply in his works carved from wood by chainsaw are critiques of the modern world, insight into the human condition, memories of the land, and incredible imagination when it comes to the natural world. [. . .] At this exhibition, inspired by the temporal and spatial qualities of a venue situated beside an artificial lake created by damming the Yoro River, Toya presents works on the themes of forest, land, and waterways, with a focus on the vast void of the museum's atrium space."
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Ukiyo-e Theater from Paris
30 October 2021 - 10 April 2022
Kadokawa Culture Museum
(Saitama)
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For people living in the Edo period (1603-1867), ukiyo-e were the equivalent of today's TV, Internet, Instagram -- media reflecting life in the present. When these woodblock prints found their way to Europe in the 19th century they had a profound impact on artists there, notably the Impressionists. Paris-based Danny Rose Studio has coupled technology and narrative with ukiyo-e to create a visual space on an unprecedented scale that immerses visitors in a 360-degree multimedia "theater" of the genre.
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Ho Tzu Nyen: Night March of Hundred Monsters
23 October 2021 - 23 January 2022
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art
(Aichi)
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Ho Tzu Nyen, the museum declares, "creates works that cross the boundaries of genre and media, including video, installation and theatrical performances. Mysterious, dynamic and captivating, much of his work is set in Asia and radiates out from his native Singapore." Here he takes on yokai, Japanese folklore's pantheon of supernatural creatures that can be at once grotesque and hilarious. The 100-odd yokai that parade through these works remind us that while such spirits may have vanished from people's lives, the fears they gave form to still resonate in the wars and other horrors of modern times, while their whimsy lives on in contemporary Japan's popular culture.
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Countermeasures Against Awkward Discourses: From the Perspective of Third Wave Feminism
16 October 2021 - 13 March 2022
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
(Ishikawa)
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From the museum: "In this exhibition our guest curator, the artist Nagashima Yurie, looks at works (including her own) produced by ten artists whose careers began in the 1990s, and offers fresh interpretations of these works from a feminist viewpoint. [. . .] [T]he young Nagashima declined to identify as a feminist herself, yet became a consistent challenger of male-centered values. Nagashima sees this kind of attitude, which had the effect of rendering feminist practice among the younger generation virtually invisible, as one version of Japanese third wave feminism, and asserts that elements of it can also be found in the output of artists who declined to be part of any 'movement' or pursuit of 'solidarity'."
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Everybody Needs a Rock: Seeing the World through the Eyes and Hands
23 October 2021 - 29 March 2022
Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum
(Shizuoka)
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A presentation of stone sculptures by eight artists who strive to make the "voice of stone" heard. Visitors are encouraged to touch these works, the idea being that by doing so, one may directly access the qualities that drew the artist to this stone. Experiencing the stone not only through our eyes, but also our hands and, perhaps, even our ears, enables us to apprehend the world of the stone itself.
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