Kiyosumi gallery complex

by Jason Jenkins

Wedged between a park, a cement factory and a taxi station, the Kiyosumi gallery complex is Tokyo’s largest, both in space and influence. Its perch atop a warehouse is arguably ideal for observing the directions contemporary art takes in Japan. Yet, despite so many heavyweights being under one roof, it’s surprisingly rare to walk away enthusing about more than one exhibition.

This month is a pleasing exception. Jeremy Dickinson’s paintings at Tomio Koyama’s seventh-floor space (www.tomio koyamagallery.com) show a confident colorist at play. Whether stacked to precarious heights or shelved between Tetrislike blocks, Dickenson renders in well-matched hues the toy buses, trucks and roadsters of his childhood with obsessive accuracy — right down to their chipped and sun-faded paint jobs. One floor down, photographer Nobuhiro Fukui’s urban nightscapes emphasize the geometric patterns city-dwellers often overlook. Fukui places images of different locations together to create a familiarity — and depth — that is both pleasing and unnerving.

Down on the fifth floor, Lisa Ruyter’s cutout-style paintings and murals fill the Taka Ishii gallery (www.takaishiigallery.com). Ruyter re-creates scenes from a concert, focusing not on performers but the cell phones and digital cameras capturing them. Tonal gradation is stripped away, replaced by garish color schemes, a comment on this captured “reality.”

At a joint-opening with Tomio Koyama two weeks ago, the show at the Hiromi Yoshii gallery (www.hiromiyoshii.com) curated by counterculture writer Kiki Kudo featured DJs and brought in a young fashion crowd — exciting additions to the usual tweed-and-turtleneck regulars. Performance artist Aiko Iwamoto walled in the main gallery, forcing viewers to climb rickety wooden steps to see an entire wardrobe laid out in an orderly mix of tops and bottoms. A mannequin wearing today’s ensemble laid motionless near the center. Only it wasn’t a mannequin — it was Iwamoto herself hiding any skin with a body stocking.

This opening — and the February farewell celebrations to magical, ARTROOM and Roentengen gallery’s locations in the Roppongi complex — contrast with a complaint frequently leveled at Tokyo’s contemporary art scene: That it doesn’t do justice to the city it serves, leaving collaborative efforts between art, music and fashion circles inadequately lubricated. If recent events are any indication, these wheels are being greased as we speak.