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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 17 December 2018
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The Breathing of Maps
15 December 2018 - 3 March 2019
Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media
(Yamaguchi)
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Co-curated by Mark Teh, a Malaysia-based director and researcher, this show brings together artists and scholars from Southeast Asia and Japan to examine the history, culture, politics, economics, and daily life of their respective countries through the unique prism of maps and mapping. Accompanying the exhibits is a full menu of lectures, workshops and performances throughout the 12-week period, mostly on weekends.

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Mingei: Another Kind of Art
2 November 2018 - 24 February 2019
21_21 Design Sight
(Tokyo)
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The museum's spacious Gallery 2 is filled with groupings of several items each among 146 works selected from the collection of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum (Mingeikan) by its director, Naoto Furusawa. But instead of conventional captions and descriptions, Furusawa provides glib, emotional exclamations like "Simple!" or "Fashionable! Bold!" Though a bit of a letdown at first, such comments are no doubt easier for the typical viewer to digest and relate to. Details like year and place of origin can come later.

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Catastrophe and the Power of Art

6 October 2018 - 20 January 2019

Mori Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Eighteen years into a century that began with September 11, 2001 and seems defined by a succession of other catastrophes like March 11, 2011, now is an opportune time for an exhibition on "disaster art." The first part shows how different artists depict catastrophe -- natural or unnatural, public or personal -- while the second part examines the contributions artists have made in disaster's wake. All told about 40 different artists and art units are featured.

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Astronomy and Printing: In Search of New World Vision

20 October 2018 - 20 January 2019

Printing Museum, Tokyo
(Tokyo)

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From the 15th-century Epitome of the Almagest that inspired Nicolaus Copernicus to the 16th-century Book of Hours, Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, and Johannes Kepler's Mysterium Cosmographicum, we are treated to an array of early-modern astronomical treatises. The point of the exhibition is to highlight the role played by printers in the astronomical revolution. A section on astronomy and printing in Japan includes works by Edo-era (1603-1867) printer-scholar Shiba Kokan and astronomer Shibukawa Harumi.
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Osamu James Nakagawa: Eclipse
31 October - 22 December 2018
PGI
(Tokyo)
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Born in New York and raised in Japan before returning to the U.S. in his teens, Nakagawa has devoted himself to photography since the 1980s. Much of his work addresses the ambiguities of his identification with both countries and the tensions between such polarities as self and society, past and present. Clearly defined in both concept and execution, his images straightforwardly express his intentions.
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Marcel Duchamp and Japanese Art

2 October - 9 December 2018

Tokyo National Museum
(Tokyo)
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Marking the 50th anniversary of Duchamp's death, this is really two shows in one: the first focuses on the artist's works, the second on Japanese art to which it draws parallels. Part 1 includes Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even as well as the notorious Fountain. Part 2 offers classical Japanese works like Narrative Picture Scroll of the Chronicle of the Heiji Civil War, which arguably shares with Nude the ijidozu technique of depicting successive events against the same background, and Hashimoto Gaho's Shoulao, a portrait exemplifying Japanese art's high regard for copies of past works.
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Natsuko Tezuka / Floating Bottle: Dive into the Point
26 - 28 October 2018
Rohm Theatre Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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The most controversial presentation at Kyoto Experiment 2018 was this one by the performance unit Floating Bottle, consisting of Tezuka from Japan, Venuri Perera from Sri Lanka, and Yeong Ran Suh from South Korea. In a critique of contemporary society and dance, the performers have expanded their choreographic concept to physically include the audience in a shared experience of the "rationalized social system" that dominates human "livinghood" today.
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Lola Arias: Minefield

26 - 28 October 2018

Kyoto Art Theater Shunjuza
(Kyoto)
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In this theater piece written and directed by Argentine dramatist Arias, six former soldiers tell of their experiences in the 1982 Falklands (Malvinas) War between Argentina and the U.K. Through these diverse voices and with a dollop of humor, the work deconstructs and reconstructs memories of war. It concludes with Britishers and Argentines gathering on stage together as members of a rock band, shouting out denunciations of the folly of war as they give an impassioned musical performance. Judging by this work, Arias is an artist of sensitive insight and moral integrity.
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Satoko Ichihara: The Question of Faeries
25 - 28 October 2018
Kyoto Art Center
(Kyoto)
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Actress Kyoko Takenaka delivers what is practically a one-woman show in three acts with disparate formats: Busu, a rakugo storytelling piece; a musical-style song titled "Cockroach"; and a health seminar about "vaghurt." The common theme is "things rendered invisible" -- objects of discrimination, exclusion, or repulsion by society due to the value placed on appearance, social utility, or cleanliness.
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Nobunaga and Quattro Ragazzi: Hopes and Illusions of Momoyama Renaissance
5 October - 4 November 2018

MOA Museum of Art
(Shizuoka)

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This introduction to works from the era when the Japanese first encountered Western art -- the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1600) and the early years of the Edo period (1603-1867) -- was shown together with another exhibition, Europe through the Eyes of Hiroshi Sugimoto and the Tensho Embassy, which featured photographs by Sugimoto of Italian churches that may have been visited by the Tensho Embassy -- four young emissaries (the Quattro Ragazzi) dispatched to Europe in 1582 by Christian daimyos in Kyushu to seek an audience with the Pope.
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