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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 exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

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image image 1 December 2016
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Yukinori Yanagi: Wandering Position
14 October - 25 December 2016
BankART Studio NYK
(Kanagawa)
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Yanagi's installations fill the vast spaces of BankART's converted warehouse by the Yokohama docks. This retrospective also introduces the concepts he originally devised for the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, the culmination of his vision for turning an abandoned Inland Sea copper refinery into a work of art. A replication of the Seirensho experience takes the visitor down a long dark corridor, only to come face to face with the baleful stare of a Godzilla head.

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VvK Programm 17: Fukushima Art
13 - 25 December 2016
Kunst Arzt
(Kyoto)
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With past installments like "Art Penis" (2013), "Monogram Art" (2014), and "Disney Art" (2015), this is a series of artist-curated group shows that flaunt their provocative humor. This year's curator, Mitsuhiro Okamoto, has transformed black bags packed with radioactive waste into bizarre pop characters; four other artists and art units likewise challenge the oblivion of stereotypes to which the mass media have already consigned "Fukushima."
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There was a man called Gocho Shigeo 1946-1983

1 October - 28 December 2016

Photo History Museum at Fujifilm Square
(Tokyo)
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The 37 images on the walls provide a concise yet evocative digest of the work of Gocho, a singularly talented photographer who died of vertebral tuberculosis at 38. Shooting most of his subjects head-on, he conjures up a curious but not unpleasant tension in the most quotidian situations. Even when his models are children they exude a powerful presence, an individuality that will not be denied.
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The Play Since 1967: Beyond Unknown Currents

22 October 2016 - 15 January 2017

The National Museum of Art, Osaka
(Osaka)

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The Kansai-based avant-garde art group The Play creates situations and experiences, but not objects per se. With their predilection for pranks and a refusal to be bound by the rules of art festivals and the like, they have produced a body of steadfastly independent work in the participatory-art vein that does not readily lend itself to display in a museum. Curators of architectural exhibitions face a similar dilemma. (See this month's Focus for a detailed review.)
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Daikanyama Photo Fair 2016
30 September - 2 October 2016
Daikanyama Hillside Forum
(Tokyo)
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In its third year, the fair takes a look at photobooks -- the photography collections that occupy a significant niche in Japanese book publishing and have undergone some unique changes over the years. One corner of the show compares the visual effects achieved with different printing processes. The fair also publishes its own photobooks; this year it offers up a valuable anthology of the early work of legendary photographer Kikuji Kawada (b. 1933).
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New Vision Saitama 5: The Emerging Body

17 September - 14 November 2016

The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama
(Saitama)
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Seven artists born in the 1980s with roots in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo, share the spotlight in this group show. Hewing closest to the title is Kento Nito, who makes his subject the naked human body. Other standouts are Nozomi Suzuki's landscapes shot from the windows of houses slated for demolition; Daisuke Takahashi's vast array of small, thickly-daubed paintings; and Marico Aoki's ritualistic photo stagings.
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Keijiro Kai: Wounded Bears
4 - 16 October 2016
Totem Pole Photo Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Photographer Kai seeks out the "origins of sports and games" from an anthropologist's perspective. This time he scrutinizes the New Year "fire-starting" ritual of the spa town of Nozawa, Nagano Prefecture, in which 25-year-old youths seek to prevent a band of torchbearing elders from setting fire to a local shrine. The mythical and fearsome aura of fire heightens the tension of the images, making these men who have morphed into "wounded bears" appear to be engaged in a heroic but doomed battle with the implacable forces of nature.
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Asuka Katagiri Solo Exhibition: Multiverse
30 September - 5 November 2016
Kana Kawanishi Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Twelve prints from the photographer's Light Navigation series capture the colors of light in subtle gradations of concentric circles. Every work is unique, and in the process of viewing them in succession one is drawn into a state that transcends space and time. Lately Katagiri's interest has expanded beyond sunlight to the manifold forms of light omnipresent in our world. Recent series like 21_34 and Light of the Light focus on fireworks and waves respectively.
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Saeborg: Pigpen
7 - 23 October 2016
Roppongi Hills A/D Gallery
(Tokyo)
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In the rear of the gallery a gargantuan latex pig, a good 10 meters long, lies on her side. With her shiny pink skin and big round eyes, mama pig is positively charming. A monitor shows a video of piglets being born. Meanwhile several piglets suckle at their mother's teats, while two more (people in costumes) cavort with visitors to the installation, the brainchild of performance artist Saeborg.
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Chim Pom: "So see you again tomorrow, too?"
15 - 31 October 2016

Kabukicho Promotion Association Building
(Tokyo)

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The tricksters of Chim Pom do it again with their takeover of a to-be-demolished building in Tokyo's Kabukicho tenderloin district, transmuting the entire edifice into a critique of Japan's scrap-and-build mania in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics. The centerpiece is a pile of debris created by cutting a stack of square holes through the upper floors and letting the slabs crash down upon one another, office furnishings and all, to form a multilayer "building-burger" on the ground floor. It's a stunt that would make Gordon Matta-Clark proud.
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