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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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Kuniyoshi Yasuo and Ishigaki Eitaro: Two Emigrants Painting America
7 October - 24 December 2017
The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
(Wakayama)
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A look at the legacy of two Japanese painters who emigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century and pursued careers there. Their styles are contrasting: Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) cloaks his messages in a mood of ennui, while Ishigaki (1893-1958) confronts us head-on with his sociopolitical concerns. With 110 artworks and some 50 other items, this is a thorough introduction to two artists who lived through turbulent times.

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Nippon Animation Kotohajime
2 September - 3 December 2017
Kawasaki City Museum
(Kanagawa)
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Japan's earliest known animated works appeared in 1917, precisely a century ago. Yet much remains unknown about the birth of Japanese animation, and as research progresses its history is constantly being rewritten. Based on the latest research, this show offers a window into the medium's genesis through animation-related materials from between October 1916 and August 1918 that shed light on the work of those first pioneers.

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Postwar Ranji: Japanese Tea Exported to Africa and the Mideast

7 October - 10 December 2017

Verkehr Shimizu Port Terminal Museum
(Shizuoka)
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Next to raw silk, tea was Meiji-era Japan's biggest export. Ranji (literally "Western letters") were the colorful labels affixed to containers of exported tea. During the Meiji era (1868-1912) the labels were woodblock printed using ukiyo-e techniques, but offset printing became the norm in the subsequent Taisho and early Showa eras. Ranji were still produced after World War II until the mid-sixties, when tea exports went into decline. This show focuses on postwar Ranji, many examples of which have been unearthed in recent years.

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Keiichi Tahara: Photosynthesis with Min Tanaka

9 September - 24 December 2017

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
(Tokyo)

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The recently deceased photographer Keiichi Tahara (1950-2017) began using butoh dancer Min Tanaka as a model in 1978. Over the next three years they continued this partnership in such venues as Paris, Rome, and New York. The current show introduces not only prints from that period but five new works shot in 2016 at Tanaka's farm in Yamanashi. It is a sublime collaboration, a magical fusion of the materialization of the body sought through dance and the materialization of the image sought through photography.
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The Doraemon Exhibition Tokyo 2017
1 November 2017 - 8 January 2018
Mori Arts Center Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Contrary to what you might think, this is not an exhibit of original storyboards or videos of the iconic cat-robot of manga and anime fame. Instead, the museum has asked 28 prominent contemporary artists to "create your own Doraemon." In other words, this is about art, not cartoons. Contributors of the most technically accomplished works range from Takashi Murakami and Yasumasa Morimura, who both participated in the first such Doraemon show 15 years ago, to Makoto Aida and Yasuyuki Nishio.
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Takehisa Kosugi: Musical Picnic

9 December 2017 - 12 February 2018

Ashiya City Museum of Art and History
(Hyogo)
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Since he first formed Group Ongaku with college friends in 1960, composer Kosugi (b. 1938) has been at the forefront of efforts to expand the concept of music. He worked with members of Fluxus in New York, founded Japan's legendary improv ensemble Taj Mahal Travelers in 1969, and served as musical director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1995 to 2011. This retrospective brings together over 300 compositions and documents from the 1950s to the present.
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Shingo Tanaka: Expect The Unexpected
1 - 30 September 2017
eN arts
(Kyoto)
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Known for using fire to produce his works, Tanaka burns paper, scrap wood, and plastic bags, then converts the remnants into art. Richly unpredictable, these are creations born from the natural forces of flame and combustion. As he strives for a perfect blend of elements under the control of the artist and those beyond the powers of the human intellect, Tanaka gives material expression to a tightrope-like balancing act.
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Chihiro Fujii: Where the Track Leads
30 September - 5 October 2017
Gallery Shimada
(Hyogo)
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Fujii's paintings swirl with torrents of blue, red, white, black and yellow -- yet these astonishingly dynamic works betray no signs of brushstrokes. Instead, the artist pours thinly diluted paint onto canvases placed on the floor, and employs natural phenomena like the viscosity of the paint and gravity (by altering the angle of the canvas) as her allies. Her multi-panel works are especially powerful, and one looks forward to seeing what she could do with several large canvases joined together.
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Joint International Project with the British Museum: Hokusai
6 October - 19 November 2017
Abeno Harukas Art Museum
(Osaka)
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A collaboration between the two museums, this show focuses on the last three decades of Hokusai's life. Of the 200 works on display 66 are hand-painted, revealing exquisite workmanship of a variety not seen in previous Hokusai exhibitions. In his last years the ukiyo-e master's artistry reached a level that can only be called fearsome. Of special interest are the revisions visible in some works.
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Yoshihisa Kitatsuji: All Prints 1976-1988
7 - 28 October 2017

+Y Gallery
(Osaka)

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This was the first installment of a three-part exhibition, extending from October 2017 to April 2018, that features the entire oeuvre of prints by Kitatsuji (b. 1948), an artist based in the Kansai region since the 1970s. These etchings of composite portraits of famous artists like Van Gogh and Gauguin can be seen as a transitional link between Kitatsuji's conceptual work in the 1970s and his more narrative-centered pieces from the 1980s on.
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