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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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Felice [Lizzi] Rix-Ueno: Design Fantasy Originating in Vienna
16 November 2021 - 16 January 2022
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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This is described by the museum as "the world's first comprehensive retrospective" of Rix-Ueno (1893-1967), better known as Lizzi, a Vienna-born designer who moved to Kyoto when she married the Japanese architect Isaburo Ueno. "Before the Second World War Lizzi divided her time between Vienna and Kyoto, working on a wide variety of design projects including everyday items, and interior decoration like wallpaper and textiles. After the war she and her husband both taught at today's Kyoto City University of Arts, and after retiring from the university the couple set up the International Design Institute where Lizzi made an immense contribution to nurturing future generations of designers, leaving an enduring legacy."
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Document: Ryoichi Nagano x Kazuaki Toyonaga x Shoto Nagano
4 December 2021 - 13 February 2022
Tsunagi Art Museum
(Kumamoto)
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Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu, has suffered two major disasters in recent years, the Kumamoto Earthquake of April 2016 and the torrential rains and flooding of July 2020. Through photographs and video works, the three Kumamoto-born artists participating in this group exhibition convey what life was like when the devastating events occurred, and how the recovery process has progressed since then. The show is subtitled "Unforgettable Memories / Emerging Landscapes."
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Sapporo Art Exhibition: Takeshi Sato

9 October 2021 - 10 January 2022
Sapporo Art Park
(Hokkaido)
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Since the early 1980s, Sato (b. 1947) has been painting landscapes of ruined cities in desolate settings devoid of life. This retrospective showcases the full range of the Hokkaido-born artist's oeuvre, from early works portraying human figures and interiors, to the cityscapes that have become synonymous with his name, to recent panoramas that center around a single line torn in the sky.
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Gift, Gift,
3 November 2021 - 20 February 2022
Hachinohe Art Museum
(Aomori)
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The museum celebrates its recent reopening in a spanking new facility with an exhibition themed on "gifts" -- specifically, the gifts offered by local culture as inspirations for art. Filling the entire museum for this inaugural show are works from ten artists and art units as well as a local ukiyo-e collection. The project derives, we are told, from the museum's aspiration to help "create the Hachinohe of 100 years hence."
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Arts Towada 10th Anniversary Exhibition: Inter+Play Season 2
1 October 2021 - 10 January 2022
Towada Art Center
(Aomori)
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The second installment of the art center's ongoing tenth-anniversary series features works by Tomas Saraceno. The Argentina-born, Berlin-based installation artist addresses ecological themes like environmental justice and inter-species coexistence in large-scale projects that extend beyond this planet into outer space. Here the focus is on his most recent works, which revolve around such key concepts as "balloons" and "spiders."
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Hirosaki Encounters
1 October 2021 - 30 January 2022
Hirosaki Museum of Contemporary Art
(Aomori)
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In the new museum's second exhibition, British artist Cerith Wyn Evans picks up where he left off in the first show, Apple Cycle / Cosmic Seed, with more "large-scale neon sculptures created based on his encounters with apples in Hirosaki." He is joined by five other artists -- Erika Kobayashi, Lei Saito, Etsuo Tsukamoto, and Yoshio Murakami -- who, with "different points of contact with Hirosaki, present diverse works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, videos, and installations." (Quotes are from the museum website.)
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Shinya Ichikawa: 2014 [ni-ou-ichi-yon] Ⅱ

20 - 31 October 2021

Gallery E&M nishiazabu
(Tokyo)
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Ichikawa, who lives in Kyoto, has pursued a career as a fine-art photographer concurrently with his "day job" as a psychiatrist. This solo show introduced 25 monochrome prints of playground equipment shot at night, a setting inspired by a scene in Haruki Murakami's novel IQ84. The series exemplifies Ichikawa's solid use of technique in the service of a clearly-defined concept.
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Kumi Oguro: Hester
20 October - 20 November 2021
Poetic Scape
(Tokyo)
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Young girls appear frequently in the works of Belgium-based artist Oguro, but she takes pains to obscure their faces among other strategies that give them the air of dolls rather than human beings. Indeed, Oguro herself says that her work is "like playing with dolls using real people." These 15 photographs from her new book Hester provided a rare opportunity to appreciate Oguro's unique approach to photography in her country of birth.
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T3 Photo Festival Tokyo
22 - 31 October 2021
Yaesu, Nihonbashi, and Kyobashi, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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Launched in 2017 by the Tokyo Institute of Photography, this event has been staged since last year in various spaces on the east side of Tokyo Central Station. Unlike many such festivals that use venues scattered widely around a given city, this one is happily concentrated in a few contiguous neighborhoods. This year's edition adopted a "wall magazine" format. Works by photographers throughout Japan taking the capital as their subject were displayed on temporary fencing, in vacant lots, and in the public spaces of office buildings, encouraging pedestrians to stop and peruse whatever caught the eye much as one might thumb through a magazine.
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Keizo Kitajima: Untitled Records Vol. 20
17 October - 13 November 2021
photographers' gallery
(Tokyo)
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Since 2014, gallery founder Kitajima (b. 1954) has been adding to the titular series, which chronicles the irrevocable destruction of Japan's landscape, a trend that became salient in the late 1990s and accelerated after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2001. Dedicated to his role as an anonymous observer of this trend, he captures images that do indeed function as "untitled records" of this sea change in the country's environment. This latest exhibit of 320 of Kitajima's photographs provided a powerful summing-up of his work.
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