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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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In Dialogue with Nature: From Friedrich, Monet, and Van Gogh to Richter
4 June - 11 September 2022
The National Museum of Western Art
(Tokyo)
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The iconic museum, designed by Le Corbusier, inaugurates its post-renovation reopening with a collaborative exhibition with the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany that "traces the development of modern art borne out of the dialogue between nature and humankind." Focusing on the late 19th and early 20th centuries and painters associated with German Romanticism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, the curators seek to demonstrate how "artists, looking at nature with new knowledge and an altered gaze, created a diverse range of works in response to this always fertile source of imagination."
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Miniature Life: Tatsuya Tanaka's World of Observation
16 July - 11 September 2022
Kushiro City Museum of Art
(Hokkaido)
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The "miniature photographer" monicker barely begins to describe Tanaka's unique artistic output, which has made him a global star thanks to his Miniature Calendar website. His m.o. is to juxtapose everyday objects with tiny diorama figures to create tableaux of broccoli forests, sushi-roll trains, and corn-cob rockets lifting off in a puff of popcorn smoke. The 150-odd works (both photographs and 3D installations) in this offering of Tanaka's "greatest hits" are sure to make a visitor smile -- and broccoli will never look quite the same again.
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Physis Intaglio: Depiction and Impression
18 June - 4 September 2022
Center for Contemporary Graphic Art
(Fukushima)
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Physis is an annual touring showcase of print artists associated with the renowned printmaking department of the Tohoku University of Art and Design, in Yamagata. The gallery site elaborates: "Physis means 'nature' or 'creation' in Greek. Physis Intaglio is based on the original Physis exhibition (with a particular focus on intaglio artists); the original took its name in the hope that young printmakers will continue to create an abundance of art, just as nature creates life. The intaglio technique is reminiscent of a mirror: the actual impression is reversed from polished copper plate to paper. One could also add the metaphor that the work mirrors the times."
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The Polyphony of Function and Decoration
7 June - 4 September 2022
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art
(Aichi)
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"Modernity" in its various guises emerged in the early decades of the 20th century -- not only in the West, but in countries like Japan as well. Artists of the day were able to share information in real time, transcending differences of nationality or genre. This synchronicity extended from painting and sculpture to furniture, tableware, clothing, architecture and city planning, and it continues to define our living spaces and even our actions as individuals. The show purports to identify the diverse forms of modernity or modernism explored by artists and other creators, sometimes in sync, as they responded to a world in flux.
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Chiharu Shiota: Home to Home

11 August - 25 September 2022
Kishiwada Municipal Jisen Kaikan
(Osaka)
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To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the city of Kishiwada is hosting an exhibition by Chiharu Shiota in Jisen Kaikan, a historic building that is registered as a Tangible Cultural Property. Kishiwada is the Berlin-based contemporary artist's hometown. Here she puts the entire hall to use as a venue for her signature installations of red and black thread, as well as smaller panel and video exhibits.
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ddd Database 1991-2022
23 July - 25 September 2022
Kyoto ddd Gallery
(Kyoto)
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For its 232nd show, the Kansai region's premier graphic design gallery commemorates its recent relocation to a new Kyoto venue by introducing a new online database that holds information on all 231 of its previous exhibitions. The gallery avers that its presentation "will emphasize the motifs of the Kansai designers who have been involved with ddd gallery's past exhibitions, and serve as a platform for the resources of the past to influence graphic design yet to come."
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Saburo Ota: People Beside a Disaster
5 July - 11 September 2022
BB Plaza Museum of Art
(Hyogo)
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Ota (b. 1950) is known for works that resemble postage stamps, train tickets, receipts and other unorthodox print media. This exhibition, on the theme of people and disasters, features a set of stamps with Covid masks as their motif and another set, Ota's POST WAR series, commemorating lives lost in World War II. Understated and meticulously crafted, his works initially seem minimalist in expression, yet they harbor forceful messages about coexistence with disaster, a fate faced by every generation of humanity. Indeed, the show might be described as a letter to all of us bearing that message.
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The Birth of Seeing: Tomoko Konoike
16 July - 4 September 2022
Takamatsu Art Museum
(Kagawa)
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According to the museum, "Konoike has worked across a variety of familiar media, including animation, painting, picture books, sculpture, handicrafts, fairy tales, and songs, while traveling to present her works alongside specific landscapes or specific seasons. Since the start of her career, one common and ongoing theme in all her work has been to fundamentally question the nature of art. Her audience sees not only with their eyes, but with their hands, nose, ears, with gravity, and with their breath, opening a new passage between the solid construct of the museum and the estranged natural world."
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Wonder Forest Closet: Hibino Kodue x Kumamoto
2 July - 19 September 2022
Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto
(Kumamoto)
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Costume artist Hibino's creations derive their inspiration from all manner of creatures and phenomena, both natural and artificial: frogs, beetles, mammoths, marine life, and more. Celebrating the museum's 20th anniversary is this multimedia blend of art, music, and dance, in which Hibino opens a mysterious "closet" that leads to a vast forest teeming with colorful life forms.
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Keiji Uematsu: An Invitation to a Nonsensical Journey -- Dreams of Seeing
15 July - 11 September 2022
Kirishima Open-air Museum
(Kagoshima)
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A protean artist whose oeuvre ranges from sculptures of iron, stone and glass to photography, video, and installations, Uematsu (b. 1947) scrutinizes the relationship between human beings and the structure of our world -- nature, the Earth, even outer space. Here he creates a miniature universe that challenges our common sense by treating language, thought, and sight as a single entity. Through works that emerge from the interface between the known and the unknown, Uematsu takes us on a journey beyond time and space in search of new meanings to be found in our relationship to the world.
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