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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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Shiga Lieko: Human Spring
5 March - 6 May 2019
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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When photographer Shiga relocated to Miyagi in 2008, the northern spring that suddenly arrives there at the end of a long hard winter struck her as a special season that unleashed a fearsome energy. People, too, seemed to undergo a metamorphosis with the coming of spring. Out of this impression grew her concept of "Human Spring" -- a force of nature inside us that we cannot control, and which she attempts to capture through this photo series centered around rite-like performances that circulate between life and death.
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The 22nd Exhibition of the Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art
15 February - 14 April 2019
Taro Okamoto Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Known as the Taro Award for short, this set of prizes was established to showcase artists who carry on in the spirit of the titular artist, employing liberated ideas and styles of expression to convey trenchant messages about contemporary society. This year the top prize went to Kazuhiko Hiwa for his subliminally violent installation of randomly blinking LED lights protruding from a pile of wheelchairs. Projected onto the surrounding walls are videos of a wheelchair-bound protagonist (the artist himself) that carry considerable impact. The awards competition is open to all ages and nationalities. (See this issue's Here and There for a full review.)
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Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions

9 February - 26 March 2019
Mori Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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This year the theme of this triennial exhibition of contemporary Japanese artists is "connexions." The word seems intended to suggest not firmly established connections but a more tentative approach of "trying to" connect. In any event the show is divided into three sections whose titles literally translate to "Trying to use technology," "Trying to observe society," and "Trying to connect two things together." There are a number of promising artists and works here, one standout being Chiho Hayashi's video piece Artificial Lover & True Love, in which she "tries to" depict love between a schoolgirl and an android businessman with kinky tastes.
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Le Corbusier and the Age of Purism
19 February - 19 May 2019
National Museum of Western Art
(Tokyo)
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This show brings together works associated with the Purist movement, which lasted from the end of World War I into the mid-1920s: Le Corbusier's architecture, paintings by his collaborator Amédée Ozenfant and the cubists Picasso and Braque, and the magazine L'Esprit Nouveau he published with Ozenfant. To Le Corbusier, architecture and painting shared the basic principle of "geometry" -- for which reason, perhaps, his own paintings are not particularly interesting.
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The Origin of Photography: Great Britain
5 March - 6 May 2019
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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This compilation of old photographs, taken and printed by such classic methods as the calotype and collodion processes, is a rather subdued affair at first glance. But each of these small images exudes the passion with which early photographers sought to capture their world. The photographs shown here reflect the power of the British Empire at its zenith. The relationship of politics and economics to photographic expression would, in fact, be an intriguing exhibition theme.
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Lalique: Unimat Collection
24 February - 21 April 2019
Nerima Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The French jewelry maker and glass artist René Lalique made a profound mark on the world of glass art with designs that created both meaning and value. He applied his genius to everyday items ranging from perfume bottles, vases, and inkwells to lamps, hand mirrors, and ashtrays. Lalique's designs were instrumental in raising the value and visibility of these mundane objects.
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Nao Manabe: Through the Waves
22 February - 7 April 2019
Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography Nara City
(Nara)
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Manabe began snapping pictures of people and landscapes in Hawaii when she attended high school there. She returned to Japan to study photography at a technical college, but Hawaii remains a favored location for her work. This series of images, which earned her the museum's Irie Taikichi Award, are categorized by the islands where they were taken: Molokai, Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui. Working with a 6 x 4.5 format camera, Manabe seems to immerse herself in the wind and light of the islands. Rather than impose her own point of view on her subjects, her approach is to cautiously sidle up to them.
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Sato Shintaro: The Origin of Tokyo
27 February - 13 April 2019
PGI
(Tokyo)
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Sato's 2008 book Tokyo Twilight Zone (Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc.) was a collection of unique photos of the metropolis at dusk, which he shot with a large-format camera from the vantage point of emergency staircases. This show is a continuation of that series in some ways, but shifts location from Tokyo's east side, where Sato grew up, to the area around the Imperial Palace, the city's geographic and historic point of origin.
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Lineage of Eccentrics: The Miraculous World of Edo Painting

9 February - 7 April 2019

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Lineage of Eccentrics, a book published by the art historian Nobuo Tsuji in 1970, cast Edo-era (1603-1867) painters like Ito Jakuchu and Shohaku Soga in a new light, upending past dismissals of these artists as oddball outliers in the Japanese art pantheon. Tsuji's disciple Yuji Yamashita organized this exhibition, which features works by eight such "eccentrics." One walks out persuaded that perhaps the greater part of pre-Meiji Japanese art could be said to belong to the same eccentric lineage. (For a detailed review see the March 2019 Focus.)
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Christian Boltanski: Lifetime
9 February - 6 May 2019
The National Museum of Art, Osaka
(Osaka)
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This retrospective -- the first major travelling exhibition for Boltanski in Japan -- covers his oeuvre from the late 1960s up to the present. Instead of an orthodox presentation of his output in chronological order or grouped by theme, it adheres to the artist's notion of "presenting an exhibition as a single work of art" (as quoted in the museum's publicity material), turning the entire exhibit space into one vast installation.
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