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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: Although Japan's state of quasi-emergency has been lifted, many museums and galleries 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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Towards Harmony: Le Corbusier and the Art of the Second Machine Age
9 April - 19 September 2022
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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When we talk about Le Corbusier, it behooves us to remember that he was not only an architect but also a painter. Ever a stalwart modernist, in his later years he was more amenable to acknowledging the irrational side of human nature and seeking a balance between people and machines, emotion and reason, art and science. This change in outlook was influenced by the devastation of World War II and the menace of the Cold War. In the throes of the historic period of transition we seem to be in today, this is an apt time to take another look at Le Corbusier's art.
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Tokyo Contemporary Art Award 2020-2022 Exhibition
19 March - 19 June 2022
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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A large-scale exhibition of works by Hikaru Fujii and Chikako Yamashiro, the recipients of this second iteration of the award. Fujii presents a new installation that uses GHQ documents to illuminate a postwar episode in which U.S. occupation forces confiscated Japanese war paintings and then couldn't decide what to do with them. Yamashiro offers a set of video works on the theme of war memory and the current controversy over American bases in her native Okinawa. Both installations reflect the artists' determination to respond to recent attempts to suppress past unpleasantries by facing the negative ramifications of history straight on. (For a detailed review, see this month's Here and There.)
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Graphic Trial 2022: Change
23 April - 24 July 2022
Printing Museum, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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The "Graphic Trial" exhibition is always a stimulating showcase of the expressive potential of graphic design in print. This year's, the 16th, is no exception, affording a chance to view a number of new modes of expression achieved through existing technologies. We've seen advanced techniques of this sort applied to paper currency, passports, envelopes, or signage without giving them much thought. Function of course takes precedent over form in those media, but when applied to forms in which function is less of a concern, these technologies can enable art and design of a whole other dimension.
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Ikko Narahara: Domains
29 April - 19 June 2022
Hakodate Museum of Art, Hokkaido
(Hokkaido)
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Narahara (1931-2020) was one of the leading lights of postwar Japanese photography, and the series Domains (1970) stands as one of his defining projects. Says the museum: "He consistently focused his photography on the theme of the conditions of human life, and has won acclaim for his fresh sense of image and emphasis on form. This exhibition features all the works from the 2019 photographic book of the same name reconstructed by Narahara himself, including previously unpublished works."
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The Narrow Road of the Deep North Painted by Ikuo Hirayama

20 May - 26 June 2022
Ishinomaki City Museum
(Miyagi)
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Best known for his Silk Road-themed paintings, Nihonga artist Hirayama (1930-2009) began exploring and depicting the "roads" of his homeland later in life. This interest grew out of his concern that historic landscapes were being lost to development and his desire to record images of Japan's natural beauty and cultural treasures. Rebuilt after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 and reopened last year, the museum introduces works by Hirayama that reference the city of Ishinomaki, based on descriptions by the haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) in his famous travel journal Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road of the Deep North).
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Kim Gaeun: A Gift from Journey
29 April - 19 June 2022
Manabia Terrace
(Yamagata)
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Kim's art derives, she states, from people and places she meets in the course of travels in different parts of the world, and is intended as a "gift" that will surprise and move the people in those places. Her latest work is inspired by a sojourn in Yamagata in northern Japan. This show highlights not only her Yamagata-themed work but also examples of the sublime black-and-white pen drawings for picture books she has produced during her journeys, as well as a collaborative work with local residents that links Higashine city's art museum with Manabia Park in the first outdoor art installation to be held at Manabia Terrace.
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Kasai Kaoru: Posters Since 1973
1 March - 12 June 2022
Center for Contemporary Graphic Art
(Fukushima)
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From the curators: "Art director Kaoru Kasai (b. 1949) is known for his creative activities of remarkable breadth, from ads for clients such as Suntory and United Arrows to package design, corporate identity and book design. His unique tone of expression set off a trend in the realm of design, his works being clearly different from the ubiquitous advertising that is intent solely on stridently proclaiming a commercial message. Kasai's works offer their viewers magnanimous access into expansive worlds and stories waiting on the far side of his ads or posters."
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Ryukyu: Special Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Okinawa's Reversion to Japan
3 May - 26 June 2022
Tokyo National Museum
(Tokyo)
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It has been a half-century since Okinawa was returned to Japan after 27 years under U.S. rule. With its own rich history as the former Ryukyu Kingdom, the region boasts a unique culture that has somehow survived the upheavals of Meiji-era modernization and the destruction of World War II; today efforts are being made to create a future for Okinawa built upon that culture and history. This massive exhibition offers a rare chance to see historical materials, artworks, treasures of the royal household, archaeological artifacts, and folkcrafts from the days of the kingdom.
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Taku Satoh TSDO: in LIFE
16 May - 30 June 2022
Ginza Graphic Gallery
(Tokyo)
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According to the gallery: "Taku Satoh's design firm TSDO has built a reputation for its distinctive approach of always drawing the full potential out of the specified environment, pioneering new possibilities for design in a broad range of situations. Satoh has continued to produce solo gallery exhibitions from time to time, independently showing his own works. These have been characterized by addressing dichotomies such as public/private, inside/outside, objective/subjective, extrinsic/intrinsic, or design/art -- not by focusing on the difference, but by being related to both sides. One common factor is the ‘in LIFE' keyword, signifying that all the works are a part of a very natural, ordinary life."
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The Great Kashu-to Exhibition
28 April - 26 June 2022
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of History
(Ishikawa)
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Kashu-to are swords forged in the province of Kaga (now Ishikawa Prefecture). Early in the Edo period (1603-1867), the swordsmith Kanewaka, who moved to Kaga from Mino (now Gifu), solidified the domain's reputation for superb swordcraft. His example was followed by subsequent generations of swordmakers, and support for the profession from the rulers of Kaga ushered in a golden age of Kashu-to. On display here are some 100 blades as well as various fittings and sword-related materials that testify to the illustrious 500-year history of the swords of Kaga.
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