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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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Mondo: The Front Runner of Film Poster Art
19 May - 18 July 2022
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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A showcase of screen-printed poster art by Mondo, a company based in Austin, Texas known for its artistically acclaimed "alternative" film posters as well as other movie-related paraphernalia. Explains the museum: "Posters have been at the heart of film advertising for more than a century. While their styles have evolved over the years and from place to place, they have always generated excitement among all who love to go to the movies. Today, as the Internet takes an increasingly prominent role in advertising media, a movement is underway to restore the movie poster as an art form existing outside the realm of advertising."
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The Present Visage of the Mingei Movement in Western Japan
5 March - 18 July 2022
The Japan Folk Crafts Museum, Osaka
(Osaka)
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Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the museum is the flagship of the Mingei folk-craft movement in western Japan. Founded by Soetsu Yanagi and his colleagues to promote an aesthetic championing the beauty of everyday craftworks, the movement established several museums around the country. It has also encouraged the creation of new works suited to the day-to-day needs of people of their era. Superb Mingei works representative of diverse approaches, generations, regions and media continue to be produced today. This show features over 200 works by contemporary craftspeople who personify the "present visage" of the movement in western Japan.
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Amedeo Modigliani Exhibition
9 April - 18 July 2022
Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka
(Osaka)
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Modigliani (1884-1920) left his native Italy for Paris, where he established his idiosyncratic style of portraiture -- characterized, in the words of the curators, "by almond-shaped eyes and long, thin necks while he skillfully captures the inner essence of his subjects." Though little appreciated during his short life (he died at 35), his work is recognizable to art fans the world over today. This exhibition brings together works from collections both in Japan and overseas with the aim of presenting "the new trends and diverse artistic environment which developed in Paris during Modigliani's time, tracing the steps that culminated in his art."
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How Do the Observers Walk on the Street?
3 June - 3 July 2022
Oita Art Museum
(Oita)
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The late great avant-gardist Genpei Akasegawa (1937-2014), who spent part of his childhood in Oita, was fond of taking walks in search of curious roadside objects, the more inexplicable or useless the better. Today many artists follow in the footsteps of Akasegawa's "Street Observation Society" with their own pursuit of quirky roadside attractions. The three artists featured here -- Saori Abe, Kotaro Ushijima, and Nami Nomura -- all take inspiration from what they encounter on their strolls.
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Yasuko Fuchita: When You Get There Someday

23 April - 18 July 2022
Tsunagi Art Museum
(Kumamoto)
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Born in Kumamoto city in 1933, Fuchita studied with painter Kinosuke Ebihara (1904-70), the guiding force of Kumamoto's postwar art scene. Known for her distinctive combination of figuration employing Renaissance perspective and post-Cezanne abstraction in the same painting, Fuchita remains active today on the path she describes as "arriving at oneself someday." This retrospective is her first solo outing at a public museum in 15 years.
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Yui Takada with ori.studio: Chaotic Order
11 July - 25 August 2022
Ginza Graphic Gallery
(Tokyo)
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About graphic designer Takada, the gallery says: "At first glance, the world he creates and inhabits seems to be devoid of rules, like a playground where he frolics as he pleases. However, Takada's designs do not come about by accident. Takada looks at things from a perspective that is slightly out of sync. He observes deliberately and thoroughly with his own eyes. By spending a little longer than usual in observation and subtly altering perspective, you perceive a world brimming with beautiful and interesting things." (Note: the exhibition opens on 11 July.)
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Avant-Garde Rising: The Photographic Vanguard in Modern Japan
20 May - 21 August 2022
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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In Japan, according to the museum website, "avant-garde photography was a movement, influenced by the Surrealist and Abstract art introduced from abroad, that flourished in amateur photography groups nationwide in the 1930s. Because the period when these photographers were actively presenting work was very short, there have been few close examinations of this movement. While it was impossible for avant-garde photography to resist the tide of militarism, seeing these works overshadowed by war reminds us of the importance of freedom of expression, as well as the breadth of creativity made possible by photography."
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Noboru Baba Retrospective
2 July - 29 August 2022
Hachinohe Art Museum
(Aomori)
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Aomori-born Baba (1927-2001) is one of the prefecture's favorite sons. A beloved creator of manga and picture books, he may be best known globally for his Eleven Cats series. This thorough look at his oeuvre offers original picture-book and manga art, some 50 years' worth of sketchbooks, and notebooks and illustrations he drew as a boy utterly mad about manga. As a bonus one can view paintings and sculptures he made for fun -- a veritable potpourri of work that will bring smiles to visitors of all ages.
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Iori Tomita: New World Transparent Specimens
9 July - 28 August 2022
Akita Museum of Art
(Akita)
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Artist and ichthyologist Tomita (b. 1983) creates exquisitely colored transparent specimens of fish, reptiles and crustaceans by the standard scientific method of breaking down protein with enzymes to make the flesh transparent and staining the bones reddish-purple and the cartilage blue. The results gleam with the beauty of minerals or precious stones. This fusion of science and art offers us a new perspective on life and living creatures.
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Kozo Nishino: Sky Memory -- Sorrow of the Quetzalcoatlus
18 June - 28 August 2022
Ishigami Museum of Art
(Iwate)
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New works by kinetic sculptor Nishino (b. 1951) are introduced in the museum's indoor gallery, while his monumental titanium pieces Harmony with the Breeze 2020 and Swing in the Air 2020 grace the park outside. The title of the show refers to his installation commemorating 9.11 at New York's 4 World Trade Center, and the subtitle to an ancient pterosaur. Indeed, these works seem to be gently flapping their wings in the breeze like prehistoric creatures.
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