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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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Reflections of Nature
25 March - 25 June 2017
Yokohama Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Works culled from the museum's collection illustrate how artists go about portraying nature. They range from such familiar motifs as the flowers and trees of Kiyoshi Hasegawa and Tetsuro Komai and the landscapes of Banka Maruyama, to more experimental approaches by contemporary artists like Kishio Suga, whose abstract wood-and-glass construction stands out amid the pretty paintings.

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The Elegant Other: Cross-cultural Encounters in Fashion and Art
15 April - 25 June 2017
Yokohama Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Yokohama port opened in the waning days of the Edo Shogunate and quickly became a point of entry for Western culture. That included clothing, though it would take many years for Japan to fully adopt Western fashions. This assemblage of some 200 dresses, accessories, crafts, paintings, and photographs examines both fashion and art from the late 19th to early 20th century as it explores Yokohama's role as a locus of East-West cultural intercourse that transformed Japanese lifestyles and aesthetics.
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Kaoru Izima: You are beautiful

15 April - 11 June 2017

Kyoto-Ba
(Kyoto)
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A commercial and fashion photographer who has also staked his claim as a fine artist since the 1980s, Izima (b. 1954) here presents a gargantuan female nude -- a ten-meter blowup of an ultra-high-definition digital camera shot. What the eye can take in varies with one's distance from the image, which coolly belies the notion that the nude represents the epitome of beauty in photography.
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Noroshi: Signal Flare for Our Future

26 April - 17 July 2017

Art Museum & Library, Ota
(Gunma)

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The opening exhibition for this new hybrid facility in the city of Ota, Gunma Prefecture, introduces nine artists whose work relates to the area in some way. Taking cues from the words of local poet Fusanojo Shimizu (1903-64), the show seeks some common thread in paintings, crafts, photos, videos, poems, songs, and other creative endeavors inspired by Ota and environs.
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7 trans-phonies
22 April - 9 July 2017
Tokyo Wonder Site Shibuya
(Tokyo)
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Launched in 2006, Tokyo Wonder Site's Creator-in-Residence program supports artists of different nationalities and media in residence both in Tokyo and overseas. The current show at TWS Shibuya offers works by seven artists who resided in Tokyo during the 2015-16 season. The term "trans-phony" alludes to the symphony (or perhaps cacophony) of voices and influences, harmonic and dissonant, that each artist encounters and blends with his or her own voice in the "borderless city" that is Tokyo.
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Keith Haring and Japan: Pop to Neo-Japonism

5 February 2017 - 31 January 2018

Nakamura Keith Haring Collection
(Yamanashi)
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The museum's Tenth Anniversary Exhibition explores links between the legendary graffiti-pop artist and Japan. Founder Kazuo Nakamura was CEO of a pharmaceutical development firm when he visited New York 30 years ago and happened to see a painting by Haring (1958-90). His love of the artist's work led to the building of the museum in 2007. This show focuses on works created by Haring during his visits to Japan in the 1980s, the first in 1983.
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Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology
7 March - 7 May 2017
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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New discoveries made in just the last decade or so have given a boost to research on early photography in Japan, which first appeared during the final years of the Shogunate. Curator Keiji Matsui launched this ambitious multi-exhibition series by sending questionnaires to museums and libraries throughout Japan, from which he learned that 358 institutions were in possession of photographs from the mid- to late 1800s. It's a treat to see the actual photos, many of which are Important Cultural Properties.
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Parody and Intertextuality: Visual Culture in Japan around the 1970s
18 February - 16 April 2017
Tokyo Station Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Though most of the show was devoted to the parodic work spawned by the intersection of the avant-garde movement of the 1960s with the subculture of the 1970s, it ended with a detailed account of the copyright infringement trial of one prominent parodist, Mad Amano. As behooves such a theme, the museum permitted visitors to photograph most of the works on display. But their very irreverence was a sad reminder of the degree to which we have lost such freedom today, when artists are constrained by copyright restrictions and fear of net-fueled accusations of plagiarism.
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Ikko Narahara: Brilliant Darkness - Pitch-Black Time
10 March - 24 April 2017
Canon Gallery S
(Tokyo)
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Photographer Narahara (b. 1931) fell in love with Venice on his first visit there in the early sixties, and continued to film the city into the eighties. This exhibition pairs his Venice - Nightscapes series from that period with Japonesque, a meditation on Japanese traditional culture, which struck him as exotic after his return from an extended stay in Europe in the sixties. The displays are exquisitely designed by graphic designer Mitsuo Katsui, a longtime collaborator with Narahara.
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Osamu Shiihara
4 - 26 March 2017

MEM
(Tokyo)

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Lately there has been renewed interest in work from the 1930s and '40s by photographer Shiihara (1905-74). His son Tamotsu, an artist in his own right, has selected 31 prints from the trove of more than 300 held for many years in the vaults of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Included are several with motifs not seen in Shiihara's better-known work.
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