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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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The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945
19 July - 29 October 2017
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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With over 400 models, plans, photos, videos and other materials, this ambitious show introduces 75 houses designed by 56 Japanese architect offices since the end of World War II. Detached dwellings proliferated in Japan after the war, spurring many prominent architects to apply their talents to private residences. Their works can be viewed as a rebuttal to the standardized houses of commercial homebuilders that have come to define the Japanese cityscape.

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Art Camp Tango 2017: listening, seeing, being there
9 - 24 September 2017
Former Go Elementary School and other venues
(Kyoto)
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Art Camp Tango is a group of local artists and volunteers living in the city of Kyotango in northern Kyoto Prefecture on the Tango Peninsula, facing the Sea of Japan. Since 2014 it has held events that focus on artistic expression "through or related to sound," spanning the genres of contemporary art, music, sound art, and dance. This month's festival brings together artists from Japan and abroad in a promising effort to engage the region in sustained dialogue with the world at large.
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Culture City of East Asia 2017 Kyoto: Asia Corridor Contemporary Art Exhibition

19 August - 15 October 2017

Nijo Castle, Kyoto Art Center
(Kyoto)
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"Culture City of East Asia" is an annual event held concurrently in three government-designated cities in Japan, China and South Korea. This year Kyoto gets the nod along with Changsha and Daegu. Artistic director Akira Tatehata has invited 25 artists and art groups to participate, including such luminaries as Yayoi Kusama, Miwa Yanagi, and Kodai Nakahara. The Kyoto program offers unparalleled opportunities to enjoy contemporary art in a 400-year-old World Heritage Site (Nijo Castle) and an atmospheric former elementary school.
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Imagining the Afterlife -- Hells and Paradise Envisioned by the Buddhist Prelate Genshin

15 July - 3 September 2017

Nara National Museum
(Nara)

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A "Millenial Memorial Exhibition" commemorating the death of the Heian-period Buddhist monk Eshin Sozu Genshin (942-1017), a major purveyor of the Pure Land faith in the Buddha Amida. He may be best known for his vivid paintings of the paradise that awaited the faithful as well as the hells that awaited everyone else. Even today, Genshin's seminal imagery pervades Japanese Buddhist visions of the afterlife.
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ARAKI Nobuyoshi: Photo-Crazy A
8 July - 3 September 2017
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Though the veteran photographer with the no-holds-barred reputation is still alive and kicking, his 21st century output has sometimes suggested that exhaustion set in after his mind-boggling pace in the 1980s and 1990s. This show happily belies that impression. Besides a daunting number of new works, we are treated to recently unearthed gems like a handmade photo book from 1964, when he was working for the Dentsu ad agency. One looks forward to further excavations.
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Shunji Dodo: A Life 1968-2017

7 July - 10 September 2017

Gallery916
(Tokyo)
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Dodo's camera work over his half-century career is characterized by versatility: he has moved freely among the 35 mm, 8x10 inch, 6x6 cm, 4x5 inch Polaroid and digital camera formats. Whatever his tools, though, his nose for the "human smell" and the cool eye he casts on his subjects remain constants. The 300-plus prints on display here testify to the greed and ferocity of that gaze.
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YOROZU Tetsugoro 1885-1927
1 July - 3 September 2017
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama
(Kanagawa)
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Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the artist's death, this massive show offered up a rather unheard-of volume of work: 442 items altogether, including 131 oils, 157 watercolors, sketches and prints, and 75 sumi ink paintings. Yorozu is known as a pioneer in Japanese modern art, but the skill with which he wielded the traditional sumi brush threatens to upend that image -- and with it the entire premise of the "modern artist." He was nothing if not a maverick.
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Sei Senkoji: Mother
4 - 9 July 2017
Y Art Gallery
(Osaka)
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A collection of portraits of the artist's mother, an elderly lady dressed in kimono, her face strongly highlighted. They are dramatic compositions, straightforward yet sensitive to the interplay of light and darkness. They also depart radically from the dynamic drawings with sumi ink of Senkoji's past shows. Lately, it turns out, he has been engaged in a portraiture project focusing on one subject at a time. In that sense he continues to pursue the same overarching theme, the human figure.
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Record Extraordinaire! Uzo Nishiyama's Notebooks on Houses and Living
9 June - 22 August 2017
LIXIL Gallery Osaka
(Osaka)
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An exploration of the extensive research materials preserved from the architectural scholar's studies of urban housing. Beginning in his graduate school days, Nishiyama (1911-94) not only worked as an architect but also carried out his own fieldwork on foot with the aim of developing a "scientific and socially-oriented approach" to housing. The sketches he drew in an effort to capture the lifestyles of ordinary citizens from every angle reveal a "modernological" outlook.
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Learning from Witnesses: The Battle of Okinawa
23 - 25 June 2017

Asakusa Public Hall
(Tokyo)

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June 23 is Okinawa Memorial Day, which commemorates the lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. This exhibition used photographs and panels to convey the testimony of those who survived that cataclysm. Also on display were shell fragments, canteens, combat boots and other detritus from the battle. At a time when fewer and fewer survivors of World War II remain to bear witness, events like this are a valuable example of the role art can play in chronicling the lessons of history.
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