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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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Man Ray and the Women
21 April - 19 June 2022
Nagano Prefectural Art Museum
(Nagano)
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One of the iconic artists of the 20th century, Man Ray (1890-1976) may have shone brightest in the medium of photography, producing an oeuvre distinguished by innovative techniques and a light touch to his camerawork, as well as a lifelong fascination with women as his subjects. The opposite sex served not only as his "muse" but also as symbols of free-spirited humanity living in a turbulent age. This show includes over 250 works -- mostly photos, but also paintings and objects.
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Onosato Toshinobu, a Luminary of Kiryu: Betamaru and Infinite Fields of Color
23 April - 19 June 2022
Okawa Museum of Art
(Gunma)
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Painter and printmaker Onosato (1912-1986) earned global accolades and had a charismatic influence on younger artists in his hometown of Kiryu. The Okawa Museum is exhibiting his work and related materials as part of a city-wide celebration of his birth 110 years ago. It's a rare opportunity to enjoy Onosato's colorful abstract designs, noted for their use of geometric shapes.
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Setsu Asakura: A Centennial Retrospective
16 April - 12 June 2022
Museum of Modern Art, Hayama
(Kanagawa)
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The museum describes this as "the first full-scale retrospective of Setsu Asakura (1922-2014), who was active as a painter and a stage designer. Born as the elder daughter of the sculptor Fumio Asakura in Yanaka, Tokyo, she studied under the Japanese-style painter Shinsui Ito from age 17. Her talent in portraying modern figures with a refined sense of colors was recognized from early on. In this exhibition, in addition to approximately 40 hitherto unknown Japanese-style paintings and drawings from the first half of her life, the versatile charms of Asakura are introduced through approximately 200 original paintings for picture books and models and drawings for her stage designs."
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50th Anniversary Collection
16 April - 26 June 2022
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts
(Tochigi)
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In commemoration of its 50th anniversary, the museum hosts this "untitled exhibition" of selected works in its possession, combined with a look back at the half-century of special exhibitions it has held. Adding to the experience are tidbits of little-known facts about each work and anecdotes about the shows known only to the curators. The museum hopes this retrospective will give viewers a renewed appreciation of Tochigi Prefecture's virtues and inspire some thoughts about the trajectory of the museum over the next 50 years.
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Hokusai

16 April - 12 June 2022
Kyushu National Museum
(Fukuoka)
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Recognized the world over, Hokusai is indubitably the biggest name in Japanese art. His Nisshin-joma-zu, a set of sketches of lions he drew between 1842 and 1843 as a "daily charm against evil," was donated to the museum in 2017. Designated an Important Cultural Property, the entire series is on display in Japan for the first time in this exhibition. Augmenting this epochal offering are a wealth of other works of various genres by the self-styled "mad old painter," who continued to churn out masterpieces right up until his death in 1849 at age 88.
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Noda Hiroshi: Absolute Realism
27 April - 19 June 2022
Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum
(Yamaguchi)
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Noda (b. 1936), regarded as one of Japan's foremost exponents of realist painting, is the subject of this thoroughgoing retrospective. The works on show range from those of his student days, when he was struggling to find his own style, to more recent series of life-size portraits. To all his subject matter -- human figures, still lifes, landscapes -- he brings the same gimlet eye and a determination to depict precisely "what is there." This is the story of one man's commitment to realism as a way of life.
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Shikoku Art Pilgrimage, Kagawa Edition
21 May - 26 June 2022
Shionoe Museum of Art
(Kagawa)
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After the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, Shikoku-born artist Parco Kinoshita walked his home island's historic 88-temple pilgrimage route in prayer for the victims. Though the name Shikoku means "Four Provinces" (now prefectures), the journey taught Kinoshita that "Shikoku is one," inspiring him to seek ways to bring people from all four prefectures together through art and foster an island-wide solidarity that will prove essential if a similar disaster strikes Shikoku one day. Making its own pilgrimage around the island, this traveling show presents 12 artists -- four from each prefecture -- in four different venues. Right now it's at the Shionoe Museum in Kagawa Prefecture.
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The Work of Illustrator Anzai Mizumaru
23 April - 5 June 2022
Kami City Yanase Takashi Memorial Hall
(Kochi)
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One of postwar Japan's most beloved illustrators, Anzai (1942-2014) applied his pen to novels, manga, picture books, essays and advertisements. His work graced everything from the covers of Haruki Murakami's novels to the pages of such children's classics as Gatan-goton Gatan-goton (Clickety-Klack Clickety-Klack) and Picky and Pocky. Anzai's delightfully whimsical images are the creation of a man who strove to draw pictures that "only I could draw," and unfailingly managed to express the familiar in unfamiliar ways.
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Hisui Sugiura: Epoch-Making Modern Designs
15 April - 12 June 2022
Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art
(Fukuoka)
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Born in Ehime, Shikoku, Sugiura (1876-1965) studied Nihonga painting, but then turned to graphic design -- then a virtually unknown profession -- for his livelihood. A pioneer among commercial designers in Japan, he single-handedly launched fashion fads in his heyday. With their sure-handed lines, poppish colors, endearing motifs and sophisticated compositions, his works transcend their era and look fresh and contemporary today.
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Kosuge1-16: "Mikən-sei"
3 April - 4 June 2022
Shiranuhi Art Museum & Library
(Kumamoto)
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In this inaugural show following the museum's closure for renovation, art unit Kosuge1-16 (Chishino Kuramada and Takashi Tsuchiya) presents a combination participatory installation and open-call art project. The title is a play on two words, mikansei (incomplete) and the mikan or mandarin orange, a specialty of this region of southwestern Kyushu. The centerpiece is a humongous soccer game set in which the players consist of animal figures and, yes, mikan. The "incomplete" reading of the title refers to an exhibit of unfinished objects -- the sort found stashed away forgotten in the corner of any house -- contributed by local citizens, along with supplementary photos and episodes.
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